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Office Limits on Net Aren’t Productive

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American workers who have Internet access both at home and at the office spend more of their personal time using the Internet to do office work at home than they do using the Web for personal purposes on the job, according to a survey conducted by the Center for e-Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Rockbridge Associates.

The survey found employees with both home and work Internet access spend an average of 3.7 hours per week engaged in personal online activities while on the job, but they spend more time an average of 5.9 hours per week using the Internet at home for work-related purposes.

According to the survey, conducted in December, fully 85 percent of survey participants with online Web access at work admitted using the Internet on the job for personal purposes. The survey found that workers who do not have Internet access at home spend average of 6.5 hours per week doing personal Web business at work, compared with 3.7 hours per week spent online by those who do have home access.

“Businesses often clamp down on personal use of the Internet at work, citing concerns about productivity, but this study indicates workers more than make up for it at home,” said Roland Rust, director of the Center for e-Service. “The survey suggests companies should accept some personal use of the Internet at work as not only inevitable, but as positive to the organization. Totally segregating work from personal activities might result in a net decline in work performed, not to mention lower workplace morale.”

Meanwhile, the 2002 UCLA Internet Report, created by the Center for Communication Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that most of those who access the Internet from the office spend their time doing work-related surfing.

UCLA’s research indicated that 90 percent of those who had Internet access at work visited business sites, and 60.5 percent visited personal sites. Additionally, more than 83 percent of those who used the Internet at work in 2002 accessed business e-mail, while more than 57 percent accessed personal e-mail at work.

About 45 percent (44.9 percent) of the UCLA Internet Report’s respondents who use e-mail at work in 2002 said their e-mail is monitored by their employers — about the same as in 2001. An almost identical percentage of 2002 respondents (45.1 percent) said employers monitor their Internet usage either somewhat or closely — nearly the same as 2001 responses.

In 2002, more than half of respondents said their employers do not monitor their use of e-mail or the Internet, or they are unaware of monitoring.

Monitoring in the Workplace
  Not at All Somewhat Closely Unaware
E-mail 26.9% 30.7% 14.2% 28.1%
Internet Usage 27.9% 30.2% 14.9% 26.9%
Source: UCLA Center for Communication Policy

Users believe the Internet is a catalyst for productivity, as 64.5 percent said that access to the Internet at work made them somewhat more productive or much more productive in 2002 — up from 60.9 percent of users in 2001 and 56.7 percent in 2000. The number of users who said that the Internet made them neither more nor less productive continues to decline.

Internet’s Affect on Work Productivity
  Much Less Productive Somewhat Less Neither More nor Less Somewhat More Much More
2000 0.8% 3.8% 38.7% 34.7% 22.0%
2001 0.9% 3.4% 34.8% 31.7% 29.2%
2002 0.3% 4.6% 30.6% 35.4% 29.1%
Source: UCLA Center for Communication Policy

Other findings of the University of Maryland’s survey include:

  • 18 percent of adult Internet users conducted a transaction on a federal government Web site during the previous 12 months, up from the 11 percent reported in 2001
  • 22 percent of adult Internet users checked account information with a telephone, gas, or electric company, up from 13 percent in 2001
  • 20 percent of adult Internet users paid a credit card bill online, up from 15 percent in 2001
  • 23 percent of adult Internet users paid a bill, other than a credit card, online, up from 16 percent in 2001

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