The curse of the email gossip

2007

Staff who ping those "humorous" emails around the office with funny attachments are not just distinctly irritating, they are also a significant drain on a company's productivity and can even put the whole business at risk.

Research by Queen's University in Belfast has found that British workers are particularly guilty when it comes to wasting time gossiping by email while at work, with around a third of both men and women, some 40 per cent in total, whiling away at least part of their day in this way.

By comparison, the international average in the poll of 1,000 workers from the UK, U.S, Australia, the Netherlands and Singapore was 34 per cent, the survey found.

Nearly a third of men admit to downloading music while at work and nearly a fifth of women, the study by academic Dr Monica Whitty concluded.

And some 14 per cent of both genders said they even played computer games at work.

Even more worrying, considering the risk it poses, was the finding that seven per cent of workers – nine per cent of men and four per cent of women – were happy to download pornography, including obscene videos and images, on to their work computer.

Americans were the biggest downloaders of pornography and music, with Australians the least likely to do so.

Laptop users in particular were "oblivious" to the added security risks of using wireless connections to access the internet, warned Whitty.

The biggest risks to workplace computers in the UK were "email driven", in other words from emailed computer viruses passed around a workplace that, when opened, could delete or corrupt important files and programmes.

"Almost two thirds of our sample would blame their employer if confidential data was stolen from their work computers," said Whitty.

"Given that security breaches and careless mistakes can lead to the loss or theft of confidential information, employers should be cautious when it comes to protecting confidential data," she added.

Older Comments

Let's not forget the cost of operating an email infrastructure (network, storage, etc.) that can sustain this email 'overhead'. In some companies this personal email traffic amounts to as much as twenty percent of all messages transferred. Then there are also seasonal spikes (holiday greeting cards and such) that often bring already overloaded systems completely to their knees. (see also www.emailtide.com)

Stefan Mehlhorn Boston, USA