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Time's a wastin'--or is it?

Two studies released this week make big claims of corporate losses in the U.S. due to employees doing their personal Internet surfing on company time.


One study, conducted by Websense, claims companies lose $178 billion in the U.S. each year due to employees using the Internet for leisure. Another study, conducted jointly by America Online and, projects a much graver number: $759 billion annually. It says workers admit to wasting over two hours per day--and nearly 45 percent of respondents cite the Web surfing as their No. 1 distraction. The AOL/ study reports that employers expect some amount of time waste--0.94 hours per day, to be exact--and figure this in when determining compensation packages. Still, the amount of waste reported by employees was over twice that. Not good news for employees who hope to retain the ability to browse the Web and use e-mail freely while at work.

As companies increasingly look to new ways of monitoring their employees' use of the Web, e-mail and instant messaging, studies like these--for better or for worse--will play an important role in their decisions about what to track.

Since the studies were released, a lot has been said about the merits of their methodologies, as well as nontangible benefits companies may receive by allowing the personal Internet use, such as increases in content, loyal employees.

Blog community response:

A few other minor quibbles instantly leap forth when we consider the notion of 'cost.' These cost studies always assume that workers are paid to be 'productive' all of the time, and that any time not being productive takes away from productivity. The problem with this is that plenty of people have jobs where they have plenty of down time...Additionally, many workers are salaried, and in many situations, they're paid salaries for tasks, not the time that they spend doing them. In short, any analysis that looks at cost as merely a factor of time will produce inaccurate results, because the workforce is far more complex. I'm still waiting to see a good study done on how many hours the average employee spends doing work-related stuff online, at home.
--Ars Technica

Of course the people who have the time to take a stupid survey like this are going to say they spend a lot of time goofing off at work. Goofing off is probably what led them to the survey to begin with. So the figures are going to be skewed. It would be like going into a bar at 2 in the afternoon, when itÂ’s loaded with regular drinkers watching Jeopardy, and doing a survey of the people in the bar. Can you imagine the executive summary for that 'survey'?
--Corporate Hallucinations

Regardless of the integrity of the study, announcements such as these always make me wonder [who] should be blamed for the financial damages that result from Internet misuse. Anybody who has taken Management 101 knows that if you hold employees accountable for achieving documented and measurable goals, that goofing off whether it's through 'cyberslacking' (Websense's term) or any other means will simply surface in employee underperformance versus stated goals.
--ZDNet's Between the Lines