Study: Office Limits on Net Personal Use Could Backfire

American workers who have Internet access both at home and at the office spend more of their personal time using the Internet to do office work at home than they do using the Web for personal purposes on the job, according to a new survey.

Conducted by the Center for e-Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Rockbridge Associates, the survey found employees with both home and work Internet access spend an average of 3.7 hours per week engaged in personal online activities while on the job, but they spend more time an average of 5.9 hours per week using the Internet at home for work-related purposes.

According to the survey, conducted in December, fully 85 percent of survey participants with online Web access at work admitted using the Internet on the job for personal purposes. The survey found that workers who do not have Internet access at home spend average of 6.5 hours per week doing personal Web business at work, compared with 3.7 hours per week spent online by those who do have home access.

“Businesses often clamp down on personal use of the Internet at work, citing concerns about productivity, but this study indicates workers more than make up for it at home,” said Roland Rust, director of the Center for e-Service. “The survey suggests companies should accept some personal use of the Internet at work as not only inevitable, but as positive to the organization. Totally segregating work from personal activities might result in a net decline in work performed, not to mention lower workplace morale.”

Other findings of the survey include:

* 18 percent of adult Internet users conducted a transaction on a federal government Web site during the previous 12 months, up from the 11 percent reported in 2001;

* 22 percent of adult Internet users checked account information with a telephone, gas, or electric company, up from 13 percent in 2001; <.li>

* 20 percent of adult Internet users paid a credit card bill online, up from 15 percent in 2001; and

* 23 percent of adult Internet users paid a bill, other than a credit card, online, up from 16 percent in 2001.