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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK

Business: The Economy

Costly computer rage

Yet another normal day in the office

It's time to tell the truth: What do you do when your computer crashes?
Curse the computer? Give the grey box a kick? Or even smash the keyboard?

The BBC's Paul Welsh finds that he identifies with 'computer rage'
If you answer 'yes', you had a bout of computer rage, and you are not alone.

A survey conducted by Mori, aptly entitled "Rage against the Machine", suggests that four out of five computer users have seen colleagues hurling abuse at their PCs.

Three quarters admit that they swear at their computers.

And nearly half of all people working with computers feel frustrated or stressed because of IT problems.

Kick it

It is not only the computer crash itself that causes grievance. Many people are simply annoyed over the amount of time it takes to fix the problem.

[ image: A quarter of all under-25-year-olds admit they have kicked their computer]
A quarter of all under-25-year-olds admit they have kicked their computer
Adding to the frustration is the computer jargon that many IT support personnel are using. It just makes the problem worse, say those polled by Mori.

"This computer is driving me crazy!" When this cry echoes through the office, it is not only nerves that are trampled. A quarter of all under-25-year-olds admit that they have resorted to kicking their PCs.

Causing a system crash by pulling out cables is another favourite method of getting even with the machine.

Work interrupted

Commissioned by computer manufacturer Compaq, the pollsters questioned 1,250 workers in the UK.

Nearly a quarter of them said their work was interrupted every day because of computer crashes and other IT faults.

Click here to listen to a range of frustrated computer rage sufferers
The result are not only higher stress levels, but clearly measurable costs too.

Deadlines are missed, contracts lost, customers angered - all because of computer trouble.

Then there are the internal costs. The Confederation of British Industry says that it costs businesses about £25,000 per person per year if one hour is lost everyday at work.

Lack of IT support

Sorting out the problem are the IT departments, computer helpdesks and manufacturer help lines.

[ image: Some take revenge]
Some take revenge
But not everybody is convinced that they are doing their job.

A massive 75% of those questioned said that their IT managers failed to sort out the problem.

And if computer support gets the machine running again, more than a fifth of all users see the same fault occurring again - because the IT people tackled the symptom, but did not solve the underlying problem.

Computer rage on the rise

The size of discontent is no surprise to Karl Schneider of Computer Weekly magazine. On the contrary, he had expected more people to voice their frustration.

Karl Schneider of Computer Weekly: "Surprised that figures aren't higher"
He says that IT deparments have the big problem of a "poor relationship ... with the people who use the equipment".

Whenever he reveals at parties that he is a computer journalist, people immediately begin to curse computers.

Mr Schneider predicts that - at least in the short-term - computer rage will actually rise, "because more and more people are using computers now".


The message from the users is clear: Manufacturers and the people installing computer networks should do more to deliver a stress-free PC experience.

Psychologist Prof Robert Edelmann: "Frustrations are going to increase given the rise in use of IT"
But in the meantime, computer users continue to be harassed by hardware trouble, and software problems.

According to Mori, nearly on in five people working in the manufacturing industry say that their computer problems make them feel stupid or ignorant.

Another factor crushing staff morale is the fact that PC trouble forces many people to work late or take work home with them - about a third of those who see their computers crash daily report that they have to do this.


Computer makers like Compaq claim that many of IT problems are quite straightforward to solve.

[ image: The 'help' centre - most computer users say the advice does not get to the root of their problems]
The 'help' centre - most computer users say the advice does not get to the root of their problems
About half of all calls to the company's help line are from users who are locked out of their PCs because they have forgotten their password.

New technologies like using fingerprint identification to clear PC access can make password problems a thing of the past. Unless the network is down, that is.

But until fancy gadgets make computers easier to handle, computer users will have to resign themselves to using the odd swear word, if they want to stop short of throwing their PCs or Macs out of the window.

It may be a pure coincidence that the author's computer crashed while this report was written.

Do you suffer from computer rage? Is your machine driving you crazy?
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