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One in three small business owners and managers are setting a bad example to their workforce by wasting time on the internet and sending humorous emails rather than working.

The new survey, by Bibby Financial Services, reveals that 34 per cent of company bosses admitted to browsing various websites for their own entertainment and sending jokes and social messages by email during work hours.

Owners and managers in the Greater London area were the biggest time wasters, with 53 per cent owning up to surfing the Internet for pleasure rather than getting on with their job. East Midlands bosses are the best behaved in the UK, with just 11 per cent owning up to Net time-wasting.

Bibby's survey comes in the wake of recent efforts by many firms to clampdown on excessive Internet use.
An estimated 231 million working hours a week are lost lost due to workers surfing the web or sending emails to friends.

A recent government report states that this lost time costs the British economy a massive £158 billion a year, with the average worker wasting two hours 45 minutes a day.

Bibby’s research also found that 30 per cent of business bosses admit to switching off their mobile phone to avoid taking an incoming call, with those working in agriculture the biggest offenders – nearly half of farmers and their workers reach for the off switch when faced with a tricky call.

Technology has also become a convenient scapegoat for many managers, with 13 per cent of those quizzed admitting to shifting the blame for poor performance onto ‘missed’ emails or mobiles that suddenly lose reception.

According to David Robertson, chief executive of Bibby, these findings beg the question of whether technology is, on the whole, a help or a hindrance to the UK business sector.

“Many firms are losing precious working hours as a result of email abuse and it would appear that business owners and managers, like their employees are not immune to the lure of the worldwide web.

“That said, information technology has revolutionised the way in which firms do business and owners and managers, if they are to meet the demands of their customers and suppliers and keep pace with the competition, need to fully embrace the opportunities that the information superhighway brings them,” he said.

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