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British office workers are spending almost half their day surfing the Net and sending emails, according to employment law firm Peninsula.

Its nationwide survey found that the problem is getting worse, with workers spending, on average, three hours a day online, compared to two hours in 2003.

The legal firm reckons this "frivolous employee behaviour" is having a "serious negative effect on firms' productivity". And while the problem hits all businesses, the effect it has on small businesses is even more acute.

Quizzed about their surfing habits, a whopping 97 per cent of the 3,250 workers surveyed said they used the Net at work for their own personal use.

Employers are simply unaware of the amount of time workers' are spending online with nine out of ten clueless of their employees' "massive overuse of company email and Internet facilities".

One in ten of the 746 firms surveyed said they monitored their employees' use of the Net at work.

Said Peter Done, MD of Peninsula: "The implications of using the email and Internet facilities in the workplace for employees own personal use is a major problem for employers. Employers are losing resources like time and money in order for employees to check their emails or surf the Net to find something of interest.

"This means that productivity in the workplace has decreased somewhat since personal Internet usage has stretched across to all ages and cultures.

"The results prove that employers are unaware as to how significant the problem is for their businesses and depending on the size of the company; the problems may alter in real significance from bad to severe," he said.

Employers need to raise employee awareness of the company's Internet access policy and procedures, and consider ways to monitor Net abuse, Peninsula advises. ®

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