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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 08:43 GMT
Internet abuse costs big money
Computer mouse and keyboard, Eyewire
These can do a lot of damage if misused
Cyberslackers are costing Britain's small businesses almost 1.5bn per year.

A survey has found that many workers at small and medium businesses are wasting time with e-mail messages and websites that have nothing to do with their jobs.

It found that 30% of the companies questioned were losing more a day's work per week to this time wasting.

Any company that comprehensively tackled the time wasting could see profits jump by 15%.

Losing loot

The proliferation of e-mail and web access was creating problems for small businesses that few are equipped to tackle, said survey author Dr Colin Barrow of the Cranfield School of Management.

He said few other forms of employee time-wasting, such as consistent lateness, had the potential to do real harm like abusing e-mail and net access did.

Slacking figures
61% lose two hours per week
30% lose up to 10 hours per week
9% have no figures
"A lot of people are not only wasting their time but are potentially creating legal liability for the company while wasting their time," he said.

Many large firms have suffered public embarrassment, legal bills, compensation claims and clear-up costs when employees seek out inappropriate material online, send e-mail to people they shouldn't, accidentally circulate confidential information outside a business or spread a computer virus.

The annual Department of Trade and Industry security survey revealed that 44% of businesses have suffered an e-mail breach and that the average cost of clearing up after such a breach was 33,000.

"That is money few small and medium enterprises can afford," said Mr Barrow.

Porn and jobs

For a small company the hidden cost of cyberslacking can be significant.

A company that makes 700,000 profit on a turnover of 10-12m could be losing 15% of its profits because of abuse of net and e-mail abuse, he said.

Few small companies were doing enough to deal with the problem of cyberslacking said Mr Barrow.

Many concentrated on stopping people looking at pornographic websites yet did little to stop people contacting job agencies or sending information to competitors.

Mr Barrow speculated that one of the reasons employees wasted time was because work is taking over many people's lives.

"People are working longer hours and getting more technology but the balance between work and home life is getting harder to strike," he said.

The survey was conducted on behalf of start-up Open Orchard, funded by BT, that is targeting small and medium businesses with filtering, policy management and security systems.

See also:

17 Jul 02 | Business
15 Dec 00 | Science/Nature
09 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
04 Sep 02 | Technology
05 Mar 02 | Business
06 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
21 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
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