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Hey, Are You Reading this Blog While You're At Work?

A new study shows that the majority of office workers use their company's technology for personal reasons, including checking personal email and taking personal calls on their office telephone, despite express policies forbidding it. Tsk, tsk!
A new study shows that the majority of office workers use their company's technology for personal reasons, including checking personal email and taking personal calls on their office telephone, despite express policies forbidding it. Tsk, tsk!Forget to pay your bills before leaving the house this morning? No worries, you can just log on to your bank's web site and pay them when you get to the office. Forget to send a note to your child's teacher before they dashed out the door? Fret not. Just whip out your company cell phone and give the teach a call. No big deal, right? Well, actually, yes.

Even though survey respondents were informed about their company's electronic communications policies, many (69%) checked the personal email and made personal calls while at work. Furthermore, 55% sent personal emails from their work email account. Young workers (aged 18-34) were the worst offenders (beware, MySpace, my young friends!), though their older colleagues were nearly as guilty of infringing upon the rules.

The "everyone does it" excuse may seem plausible here, but personal Internet use is a major problem for enterprises.

First comes the productivity factor. If you're sending personal emails, you're not working. If you're on the phone with your mother (cut the cord, already!), you're not working. While 5 minutes here and there may not seem like much cause for concern, small businesses feel the pinch from decreased productivity sooner than you might think. I had a job about 5 years ago, and the woman sitting next to me spent at least 4 hours a day (I am NOT kidding) on the phone with her friends. Needless to say, I wasn't too surprised when the magazine she was supposed to be selling ads for suddenly shut down.

Then there's security. You may have ironclad firewalls, but if your employees go and install an IM client and use it to communicate with outsiders, they open the whole system to attack. The risks are even greater when mobile technology is being used as the conduit for personal use.

As much as employers like to be understanding about personal issues (we all have them from time to time), they have to answer to the greater organization, which has to answer to stockholders (if public) or the owners (if private). Employees have to remember that they can easily jeopardize their jobs by using company technology for personal reasons, even if it for the most innocuous reasons.