Spending company time surfing the web for personal reasons and sending non-work emails and texts gives up to a third of workers the equivalent of a fortnight's extra holiday, a study has suggested.
"Desk skiving" or "cyber-loafing", as it has been termed, is becoming endemic, with more than eight out of 10 workers saying they went online or texted for personal reasons when they should have been working.
The study of 1,500 workers by management consultancy Captor found more than one third of those polled said they averaged 15 to 30 minutes a day on personal web surfing, e-mails or texts.
This equates to between seven and 14 days of unofficial holiday a year.
Just 21 per cent of truly conscientious workers said they did not do this at all, or only did so on official work breaks.
More than eight per cent said they spent about two hours a day desk skiving, and women were twice as likely as men to spend about two hours a day online.
When asked why they did it, the main reason stated was "needing to get something personal done in a hurry", followed by "needing a break" and "boredom".
Nearly a third – 30 per cent – said it was "payback" for having to work extra hours or through their lunchhour.
But a total of 6 per cent said it was because they did not have to pay for it at work.
Favourite desk skiving activities included: looking at news online (58 per cent), personal research on search engines (54 per cent), personal texts (30 per cent) and online shopping (27 per cent).
Nearly a quarter had looked for another job online and played desktop or online games, while nearly 20 per cent had taken part in online auctions. Fewer than 5 per cent admitted to spending any time on either online dating, gambling (twice as many men as women), blogging, chat rooms or adult content websites (four times as many men as women). About 15 per cent said they spent more time on personal e-mails than work e-mails and 14 per cent used instant messaging to talk to friends – particularly women.
But while productivity obsessives might throw up their hands in horror at these figures, there may be a flip side. Research carried out last year in Holland suggested that cyber-loafing workers are more productive than non-loafing colleagues because they prioritise and manage their workloads better and reduce stress by enjoying their day more.