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LEGAL ISSUES

Seven Out of 10 Employees Admit to Abusing Office Computers, Phones

More people are likely to engage in "risky work behavior" than ever before, according a new survey.
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Nearly seven out of 10 adult office workers use their computers and other office technology for personal reasons, often ignoring employer policies that warn against doing so, new research shows.

Sixty-nine percent of office workers admit that they access the Internet at work for non-work purposes, and the same percentage use their work telephone to make and receive personal calls, according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Lawyers.com. In addition, 55 percent of the 1,711 respondents said that they send and receive personal e-mail  on their work accounts.

Despite the routine misuse, 45 percent of office workers say they have been informed that their technology usage  at work is monitored. "It's not a mystery to most employees that their bosses may be reading their work e-mails or checking out websites they visit on work computers," Alan Kopit, an attorney and legal editor for Lawyers.com, said in a statement.

The survey results show that employees are more willing to engage in what Kopit calls "risky work behavior" than ever before. Approximately three out of four, or 73 percent, of office workers are as or more likely to use the Internet for personal reasons than they were two years ago.

The percentage of office workers conducting personal business  at the office is even higher among young employees. Nearly 72 percent of workers ages 18 to 24 said they check personal e-mail accounts at work (compared to 61 percent of the general population), and 77 percent are using the Internet personally (compared to 69 percent of workers overall), the survey says. Seventy-one percent of the young respondents said they maintain some sort of personal website. Personal blogs are the most popular among young workers, while 52 percent use networking accounts, such as MySpace or Facebook. Thirteen percent of workers 18 to 24 have an online dating account that they use at work, survey results show.

Experts say these percentages make young workers even more vulnerable to personal exposure at work. "We've seen instances where current or potential employers reviewed content of personal websites, and held employees accountable in different ways for what they post," Kopit said. "Young people tend to live lives very openly online, which may have unintended repercussions when it comes to their employment."

Employee violations of technology usage policies can not only hurt the productivity of businesses, but in some cases could compromise the security of their communications systems. Kopit advises employers to evaluate their current practices regarding technology and to take the necessary steps to implement systems that will ensure their business is protected.

Last updated: Jan 29, 2007




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