VISUAL NEWSLETTER – APR 2007                         




While the Internet has become important to many companies, it can become a primary cause of lost productivity in the workplace. As a work related means of web-based advertising, information retrieval and communications it is a great tool but for numerous employees it becomes a source of wasted time. Before the Internet came along it was fairly easy to spot an employee wasting time on numerous personal calls and such. Now, it is no longer obvious and people can be seen hunched over their computers typing away, but unless you were to look over their shoulders you wouldn’t know if they were working on company business.


There are 5 major forms of time wasting that can occur across from a computer. Most if used in moderation during lunch and such wouldn’t be too significant, but recent studies have confirmed that in some cases employees were spending up to seven hours a day doing one or more of the following frequent time wasters:


1)    Browsing the Internet


Visiting Websites such as Facebook have become an obsession for some people. Following up on all their friends from school, what they are doing and who they are seeing can take up considerable amounts of time. Popular Fan Websites draw people into check on their favourite celebrities or television shows. Sports Sites may be useful, to check on a score, but it may be hard not to stop and read a couple of articles while you are there. For people without Internet access at home this may be an even greater problem since their work computer may be their only route into this world.


2)    Messenger Programs


Programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger and Google Talk are programs that computer users can use to talk to one another over the Internet. This has largely replaced the more obvious personal calls and employees can spend several hours a day chatting with friends while appearing to be working. These programs can be useful in the work environment, if limited only to business related conversations.


3)    Non Work Related E-Mail


In one case when I came into upgrade a new employee’s computer I found no less than 500 accumulated personal e-mails containing jokes, picture, videos and such. This occurred within 2 weeks of that person occupying the job. Not only is this a substantial source of wasted time, it may be a source of computer viruses which can come in attached to the pictures or videos going around.


4)    Unauthorized Downloads


I spend a fair amount of time each month fixing computers that have slowed down or started to malfunction due to user initiated downloads of software. Users download screensavers and assorted utilities claiming to make the computer faster while only aggravating their problems.


5)    Computer Games


Computer games were more of a problem in the early days and an occasional game of Solitaire while on lunch or coffee break seem innocent enough. Some new Internet based games are quite addictive however and can go on for hours.




It’s difficult to say what controls are reasonable in the working environment. These problems can be relatively minor or quite significant and are difficult to monitor and control.  Some affected companies have been forced to initiate very strict guidelines to control these activities, such as:


Announcing that Website access will be monitored and is limited to work related sites.


Banning all Messenger Programs within the workplace unless authorized for specific uses.


Restricting E-mail to work related contacts.


Banning unauthorized software downloads.


Banning games during business hours.


Let us know if you have any concerns in these areas and would like to monitor usage levels.