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Coffee Breaks Give Way to Surfing the Net at Work

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RALEIGH — Some employers say workers are spending too much company time surfing the Internet, and a growing number of companies now have policies controlling how computers and the Internet are used.

New technology brings new rules, and if employees do not follow the rules, they can get in trouble.

Coffee breaks and water cooler talk have given way to e-mail and chat rooms at work. It is a growing problem for employers and employees.

Employees stare at computer screens all day for work and personal reasons. Companies now do business on the Internet, so workers have immediate access to all the Internet has to offer.

"It's no longer the water fountain; it's at their desk. It is not the telephone; it's on the personal computers. Online trading and communication at chat rooms. There is a concern with loss of productivity," said George Ports, management consultant.

Government employees at the Triangle's EPA Labs are allowed incidental personal use of computers and the Internet.

"Really it's a system of taste and good judgment with some supervisory oversight," said Ann Akland, deputy director.

Akland says employees feel better about being able to use the equipment, and there have been no major problems with overuse.

"Now we do have some monitoring programs that are set up. If employees are hitting porn sites, for example, then the supervisors are going to be notified," said Akland.

Port's organization, Capital Associated Industries, advises companies throughout eastern North Carolina on policies dealing with computer and Internet use.

"These computer systems and equipment are company property, and it talks about the appropriate and inappropriate use. Employees are put on notice that the company has access to files and so forth," said Ports.

Although concern is growing and policies are being put in place, worker productivity in this country is actually rising.

Ports says most workers use equipment and the Internet to benefit their employers.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Mark Copeland, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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