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Survey: Tech support time costly

Computer woes steal too much of workers' time, according to an IT services company, and the price of all that lost productivity is high.

Thirty-six percent of white-collar workers spend 30 minutes or more each week on the phone with their companies' technical support services, which costs businesses plenty, according to a new study.

The nationwide survey, sponsored by technology services company Siemens Business Services, found that another 20 percent of white-collar workers spend an hour or more on the phone with tech support each week. Five percent report being on the phone with the help desk for five hours or more each week.

Siemens estimated that a company of 5,000 white-collar employees is losing about $4.1 million annually on lost "direct-productivity" hours, as workers stop what they're doing to get tech help. The estimate is based on a U.S. Department of Labor estimate that it costs an average private company $24.95 per hour to employ a white-collar worker, Siemens said.

The survey also found that 26 percent of employees admit they rely on their company's technical support for help with personal technology devices, further driving up demand for technical support services.

"Of all leading indicators, help desk calls represent the clearest view into the health of an IT environment," said a statement from John McKenna, CEO of Siemens Business Services of North America. "By addressing the entire IT infrastructure, CIOs solve the help-desk symptoms and, more importantly, maximize overall IT performance and deliver cost savings."

According to a report earlier this year from research company Meta Group, the idea of farming out support services to low-cost providers is gaining attention in the market. But outsourcing isn't a no-brainer, Meta Group warned.

"The promise of significant cost savings is the alluring attraction for many organizations investigating alternative services to costly insourced IT resources," Meta Group said. "However, quick-hitting resource cost reductions at the service desk must be carefully weighed against the long-term cost management of IT service delivery."