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Small Business Digest


Fears Of Employee Backlash When Monitor Seem Overblown

There has been much talk about employee resentment of workplace monitoring, particularly of computer, Internet usage.

However one survey appears to show there is little worry as business leaders seek to curb lost efficiencies due to employee web surfing.

SpectorSoft, an employee monitoring solutions, revealed results of its Non-Private Lives of American Employees survey, detailing how 91 percent of employees accept and in some cases, even welcome having their computer activities and behaviors monitored by their employers during work hours..

"This survey reveals that businesses desiring to strengthen security, improve efficiency and stop bleeding millions in lost productivity need to find ways to control employees' use of corporate computing resources during work hours," said Nick Cavalancia, vice president at SpectorSoft. "The fact that employees' attitudes are changing when it comes to privacy has provided organizations with an open window to start implementing monitoring programs that ensure employees aren't taking advantage of acceptable computer-use policies or engaging in behaviors that put data and efficiency at risk."

In addition to revealing changing attitudes among U.S. employees when it comes to privacy and the workplace, the survey also showed that employees' non-work-related computer activities are costing businesses millions of dollars in lost productivity annually. Fifty-nine percent of respondents engage in personal activities on computers while at work, admitting that they spend an average of 2.75 hours per week doing so. This means that employees are spending 137.5 hours per year (assuming a 50-week work year) engaged in personal activities on company computers. These numbers reveal staggering conclusions:

  • 100-employee businesses have productivity losses of 13,750 hours annually, equivalent to paying seven full time employees to do nothing all year
  • 1,000-employee businesses have productivity losses of 137,500 hours annually, equivalent to paying 69 employees to do nothing all year
  • 5,000-employee businesses have productivity losses of 687,500 hours annually, equivalent to paying 344 employees to do nothing all year

These losses are shocking. A review of estimates out of the U.S. Census Bureau over the past several years shows that the approximate average wage of employees across nine educational levels (ranging from some high school to professional degree holders) could be as high as $28 per hour. When applying the 137.5 hours wasted per year per employee, companies with 10,000 employees stand to lose as much as $38,500,000 in productivity annually due to personal computer use during company time.


Key findings include:

  • 75 percent of employees accept that employers may monitor their computer activities.
  • 16 percent of employees are "glad" their employers monitor their computer activities.
  • 9 percent of employees were "mad" about being monitored during working hours.
  • 49 percent of employees said their employers monitored their computer activities.
  • 69 percent of employers that have Internet Acceptable Use Policies (IAUP) monitor employees.
  • 15 percent of employers that do not have IAUPs monitor employees' activities.

"The security vs. privacy argument has certainly heated up. Capitol Hill is in the thick of debating perceived anti-privacy clauses in the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, privacy rights advocates are calling for increased protections, and the mainstream media is clamoring to point a finger at big brother," said Cavalancia. "Our survey of 300 workers makes it clear that when it comes to the workplace, employers are free to move forward with monitoring solutions that will reduce risks as well as increase productivity."

SpectorSoft conducted the survey in Q4 2012, polling 300 respondents who were 18 and over and employed full time. Respondents worked in a broad range of industries in organizations of all types and sizes

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