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The productivity of UK businesses is being threatened by employees who waste time emailing their friends, new research claims. Forty per cent of UK workers spend an hour or more every day messaging friends and relatives and swapping jokes, according to a poll by Clearswift. UK IT departments proved the worst behaved, spending 17 days a year chatting with friends. Their non-technical colleagues dedicated 13 days to personal email.

Clearswift claims business productivity is under threat, as the time wasted in companies survey amounted to 1,700 days a year or the work of seven full-time employees. It urges employers to encourage staff to redirect their attention to more productive company-related activities. However, three-quarters of respondents believe their boss would be unconcerned on finding out about their email habits, while just one in 10 said they never use the company email system for personal reasons.

Clearswift's David Guyatt said: "Added to other issues such as loss of confidential information, inappropriate email leads to personal harassment, compliance challenges, spam and viruses. Companies need to set the ground rules with employees on web and email usage through clear policies to ensure productivity does not suffer."

The report recommends that firms restrict personal email use to lunchtime, before or after work as well as prohibiting access to inappropriate websites.

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