button Vol. 7
No. 3


Overtime Is About to Change
line New Frontiers in Harassment
line Reminiscing About Workplace Romance
line Web Surfing at Work
line NLRB Using The Web
line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

Human Resources and labor relations Web Surfing At Work: New Workplace Reality

Recent studies have uncovered some interesting trends on the use of the Internet by employees, both at work and at home.

One study finds that Americans spend more time at home on the Internet for work purposes than they spend on the Internet at work for personal reasons.

The Center for e-Service at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and Rockbridge Associates, Inc. co-sponsored the National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS). The survey is based on a "representative, random sample of U.S. adults (18 years or older)", and was conducted using the telephone in December 2002. The survey sample was 501 adults and is quoted as having a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The survey found that employees with Web access at both the office and at home, spend an average of 3.7 hours per week engaged in personal online activities while on the job.

However, they spend more time - an average of 5.9 hours per week - using the Internet at home, for work-related purposes.

The survey concludes that the Internet seems to have a net effect of shifting work to home more than personal activities to work.

"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. 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 at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

85 percent of survey participants with online Web access at work admitted using the Internet on the job for personal purposes.

The authors of the survey hypothesize that "many people may conduct personal business at work because the workplace offers more desirable infrastructure such as high-speed connections. And, most modern PCs still require an effort to boot up, so consumers may be more likely to conduct personal business on the job where their computer is on all day."

On the other hand, "computers give workers newfound freedom. For example, a person can now leave the job early enough to have dinner with the family, and finish up business on the Internet afterwards. This might include checking email, conducting research, ordering travel or purchasing things for work. Workers may also telecommute, and telecommuting may be spontaneous or temporary, such as staying at home in the morning to catch up without distractions."


We can be sure that there will be more studies and information about people at work using the Internet.

However, it seems that the results may be more complicated than we might predict. The line between work and home can become more blurred in the case of Internet usage, and productivity can be harder to track or predict.

Employee's using the Internet for personal purposes at work is a reality that won't go away.

Some employers may turn their heads the other way, and some may over react and attempt strict restraints on employees using the Internet. However, as this survey implies, it seems that somewhere in the middle ground might be the best attitude to take regarding Internet usage in the workplace.

If you would like some more information on e-mail policy and other Internet policies, you can read our earlier articles by following the links listed below:

Checkmark Graphic Internet E-mail Usage Update

Checkmark Graphic E-mail - The 'Wild Wild West' of Today's Workplace

Checkmark Graphic E-mail Policies Can Lead To Legal Quagmire

Checkmark Graphic Internet Code of Conduct - Model Policy

Also:The full results of the National Technology Readiness Survey can be found here: http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/ntrs2002/

5. NLRB Using The Web Next Page

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