With social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter gaining new users every day, cyber skiving is emerging as one of the main causes of lost productivity in the workplace. It is a problem that costs companies in Scotland and around the globe millions of pounds every year, and research suggests that 30% to 40% of employees’ internet access is spent on non-work related browsing.

According to the survey carried out by International Data Corp 60% of all online purchases are made during working hours and they estimate that 25% of corporate internet traffic is unrelated to work.

A company with 1,000 internet users could lose upwards of £28 million in productivity annually from just 30 minutes of daily web surfing by employees. Facebook now has over 500 million user accounts, which means that one in 12 people use the site to keep in touch with friends around the clock.

Companies have to manage a fine line between appropriate levels of internet use and cyber slacking. A lot of employers do not understand the impact that high levels of non-work related internet activity can have. If you say that, as a minimum, an employee might spend 10 minutes a day on Facebook, it adds up to a week’s worth of lost work a year.

But it’s not just about lost productivity as access to these sites can lead to problems with security. Many of these sites open up security threats with applications that can harvest personal and business information.

With so much business-related research now performed online, blocking internet access is not the answer. Allowing employees to browse on pre-approved sites also creates logistical problems with staff having to ask for sites to be unblocked for genuine research purposes.

For a relatively small investment, companies can now install a device to monitor and manage internet use. Being able to keep tabs on how many hours your staff are spending on the internet every day will give you peace of mind and allows you to nip cyber skiving in the bud before it becomes an issue with individuals.

Tips for employers are:

  1. Educate employees about the importance of the internet as a business tool and set parameters for what is considered appropriate
    2. Have an acceptable use policy for IT that shows the company has a right to monitor and control internet use
    3. Use monitoring solutions to track internet use: sometimes employees are not aware of their level of cyber skiving
    4. Restrict access to non-work related sites to lunchtimes and outwith core business hours.

Most issues with cyber slacking can be addressed by following these steps, but when things go really wrong and, for example, an employee’s internet use results in a criminal investigation.