Confessions from Cyberslackers

Based on existing research we know exactly how people use the Internet at work. We know which sites they visit, when, and for how long, but we still know very little about their email usage habits, not counting the abounding spam studies. To remedy the situation, at the meeting of the American Marketing Association in Richmond, members were surveyed on Internet and email practices. The survey of seven simple questions raised many legal concerns surrounding computer use in the workplace. The survey was conducted by Tenax, Inc. a company which consults on Information Technology compliance.

According to the survey, a full 90% of those responding said that 50% or fewer of their emails were to professional contacts outside their organization. Less than half (46%) of those surveyed indicated that 26 - 50% of their emails were sent to co-workers. Company email was also being used by employees to communicate with family and friends. Additionally, 83% indicated that as much as 25% of their out-going email was not business related.

"Cyberslacking, the use of company time on the Internet for non-business activities, is costly to businesses in terms of company resources as well as lost productivity," said Barty Bryant, Vice President of Operations for Tenax.

The Saratoga Institute of Human Resources estimates that an organization with 1,000 employees will suffer annual productivity losses upwards of $35 million if each employee cyberslacks for just one hour per day.

The study also shows that people like to save their old email. Email counts indicated that 18% of those surveyed had over 1,000 email messages on their computer; while 18% had fewer than 100 messages stored on their PCs. The survey indicated a fairly even distribution, around 22%, for those with 100-300, 301-500, and 500-1,000 stored emails.

When questioned about email content, 63% claimed they had email on their computer that they would not want read in court, by a coworker, a friend, or family member.

Another part of the survey measured spam email. 57% of those surveyed estimated that less than 25% of incoming email was spam. For 33% of respondents, spam accounted for 26 - 50% of their incoming email.

On the positive side, the survey showed that the Internet was being used productively by the AMA members. Work related Internet activities included research, customer prospecting and business news. All of the respondents admitted to spending company time on the Internet for non-business activities. Banking, downloading music, and shopping were sited as the reason for the 22% of those surveyed to spend four or more hours per week using their company's Internet services for personal activities.