Internet usage at work poses challenge for employers: Let your employees "surf and learn" or limit their freedom

Most use Internet for research and breaking news

New York -- May 22, 2000 - Nearly half (46%) of all employees with Internet and e-mail access at work go online for personal reasons, and 55% go online to write or receive personal e-mails, results from a recent poll by the Angus Reid Group show. Employees aged 18-34 are much more active than their co-workers: 57% report personal surfing at work and 68% use e-mail for personal reasons at the office.

Among those who surf the Web for personal reasons, information-gathering tops the list: 89% report accessing research or search engines, and 75% report checking out news or sports headlines. Also popular is screen and comparison shopping (67%), which ranks much higher than making actual purchases online (45%). Almost half (49%) of employees who surf the Web for personal reasons report checking out the stock market at work, much higher than the number who report doing online banking (14%). Lower down the list are playing games online (22%) and visiting adult websites while at work (11%).

Interestingly, 73% of employees with Internet/e-mail access at work also agree that their employers have the right to monitor their online activities.

"This isn't an easy issue for companies, and the findings raise an interesting paradox," says Edward Morawski, a senior researcher at the Angus Reid Group's New York office. "On the one hand, surfing for personal reasons on company time may detract from one's job. However, having Internet access at work also allows employees to better manage their personal lives, which is a key driver of workplace satisfaction."

"Employees are able to accomplish tasks -- like banking, for example -- that they would otherwise have to do on their own time, or take time off work to do. Personal surfing doesn't necessarily mean surfing for the purpose of being entertained, as is reflected in some of our data. So the fact that employees surf for personal reasons shouldn't necessarily be seen as a negative from an employer's point of view, since it may allow workers to be less distracted when it comes to their professional duties."

Added Tudor Williams, a leading Internet communication strategist with e-communication consultants NetGain: "The Internet is a communication tool like the telephone, only a lot more efficient. If employers want to encourage employee ingenuity, they cannot put constraints on employees looking for information. Internet surfing is exploration in the information age. If the King of Spain had put similar constraints on Christopher Columbus, he might never have discovered America."

Select Findings from the Angus Reid Express Poll of 1000 American adults

Activities of American employees who engage in personal online surfing at work Base: 200 (weighted) American employees who surf the Web for personal reasons, from an overall sample of 1000 Americans.

  • Accessing research or search engines: 89%
  • Checking out headlines such as news and sports: 75%
  • Shopping around or comparing prices without making any actual purchases online: 67%
  • Checking out how the stock market in general or how personal investments are doing: 49%
  • Making purchases online: 45%
  • Playing games online: 22%
  • Doing banking online: 14%
  • Viewing adult sites: 11%

The results were collected by Angus Reid EXPRESS, a nationally representative survey conducted every weekend amongst 1,000 Americans. The margin of error for the total sample of 1000 Americans is +- 3%. Results based on smaller subgroups have a larger potential for sampling error. The research for this release was conducted April 29-30, 2000.

About Angus Reid The Angus Reid Group is one of North America's premier market research and public opinion polling firms. The company also provides international clients with a regularly scheduled quarterly global polling program wherein upwards of 30 countries over a two-month timeframe are sampled for opinions on private sector and public matters. The Angus Reid Group also publishes, on a quarterly basis, the World Monitor, a digest of world public opinion trends and insights gleaned from its world polling activities.

For more information on this release, please contact:

Ed Morawski Angus Reid Group New York (212) 265-3200

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