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Businesses trying to prevent employees from wasting time online need to do more than just institute Internet usage policies, new research finds.
A study by professors at Kansas State and Southern Illinois universities found that company policies are not enough to stop workers from wasting time at work and that sanctions with policies must be consistently enforced for policies to be effective.
The research revealed that while threats of termination and detection mechanisms are effective deterrents against activities such as viewing pornography, managing personal finances and personal shopping, they may not be enough to stop all cyberloafing.
Kansas State's Joseph Ugrin, one of the study's co-authors, said policies must be enforced to discourage activities like excessive personal emailing and social networking. He said many younger employees don't even recognize that social networking while on the clock is an unacceptable behavior.
"Just having a policy in place did not change their attitudes or behavior at all," Ugrin said. "Even when they knew they were being monitored, they still did not care."
It's not just younger employees who are using the Internet to waste time at work.
"Older people are doing things like managing their finances," Ugrin said.
Overall, the research found that between 60 and 80 percent of employees' time on the Internet at work is not job-related, leading to numerous hours of lost productivity.
With so many employees using the Internet at work for personal use, the researchers said taking a hard-line approach to enforcing online usage policies can lead to a number of negative consequences, including lowering morale around the office.
"We don't want to make everyone at work upset because the corporate office is watching over their employees' shoulders, but what if workers are wasting all of their time online?" Ugrin asked. " Where's the balance?"
The study, co-authored by Southern Illinois' John Pearson, will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.