British employees are wasting hundreds of contracted work hours a year using company computers and phones for personal activities, according to a new survey from ExpressVPN. The survey, conducted by the consumer privacy and security company, found that some people are spending only 32% of annual contracted hours on work tasks.
With a steep rise in hybrid and home working in recent years, many companies have provided employees with work devices to use in the comfort of their own homes, including work laptops, desktops, phones, cameras, and microphones.
ExpressVPN’s study polled 2,000 hybrid and remote workers across the UK and US to find out how they’re using work devices for personal tasks. The research found that over half of UK workers admitted to using their work computer to check personal emails (62%), carry out general personal activities, such as reading the news or looking things up online, (58%), and to shop online (52%).
However, it seems some activities were less innocuous. In fact, 24% of workers admit to having spent 97 working hours per year looking at porn on a work device, and 96 hours accessing the dark web.
Overall, men were more guilty of using work devices for personal tasks than women. Out of all the personal tasks, checking personal emails came out on top, with men spending more time doing this at 189 working hours per year compared to women at 115 hours. Men also spent more time watching porn at 140 working hours per year compared to women at 68 hours.
Employees aren’t getting away with this, though. The survey showed that 78% of employees who had admitted to using their work computer to browse the dark web had been approached by their employer about it. Further, 77% had been approached regarding buying crypto and 73% were approached about online gambling.
The most common consequences for these employees was a verbal warning, with 14% receiving one from their employer. 13% of workers received training on the appropriate use of work devices after being caught out.
“It’s concerning how much time Brits are spending on personal activities during working hours, especially as they are using their work devices for these tasks. This isn’t just about productivity, it can adversely affect your company’s privacy and security risk levels,” commented Lauren Hendry Parsons, Privacy Advocate, ExpressVPN.
“Short of locking down internet access on all work devices or resorting to unwelcome, demoralizing surveillance, it’s unrealistic to stop employees from using work devices for personal activities. Instead, business leaders need to ensure they are equipping employees with a solid security education, helping them to understand the risks they would be introducing and how to avoid things like phishing attacks. Employees must understand that their usage of company devices will be visible in some capacity to the company, so it’s certainly worth thinking twice before spending a little personal time with a work device.”
Looking beyond how employees are using their work devices, the survey also revealed that 74% of senior management working in the UK expect employees to be working outside of their working hours. This pressure to consistently work overtime may be part of the reason why so many employees are using their work equipment for personal activities.
The survey also looked at the privacy and security precautions employers had in place to ensure safety online. 90% of businesses have at least one form of IT security in place for remote workers-with VPNs (33%), virus protection (32%) and firewalls (30%) being the most common. 28% of businesses also provided an IT safety guide to employees.
This survey was carried out by CensusWide across the UK and the US in February 2023, with a total of 2000 respondents. In each country, 1000 hybrid or remote employees were surveyed.
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