Employees who use the net at the office for sending or receiving e-mails or browse the web may be doing their bosses a favour because they are more amenable to working after office hours or from home, according to a new study.
The border between work and personal life created by the Internet is a boon for employees and employers, said Massey University student Andrea Polzer-Debruyne, who conducted the study for her psychology thesis.
She found that people whose employers tolerated a reasonable amount of personal e-mailing and other Internet use at work tended to be more open to doing work from home or making themselves available online to deal with clients or handle after-hours matters.
She said this was one of the few studies that looked at the reasons and attitudes behind the ubiquitous practice of personal Internet use at work.
Some workers she surveyed said they felt the boundary between work and life is becoming increasingly blurred, with growing expectations of being available online for work at home.
Consequently, workers feel justified in shopping, banking and paying bills online at work and are therefore less resentful of being expected to carry out work duties outside office hours.
Using the Internet for personal use at work may also reduce stress for employees, giving them mini breaks that can potentially make them more productive, she suggested.
"Using the Internet for private use at work can be good for an organisation," said a respondent. "If an employee orders a present or groceries over the net at work, it takes half the time it would if they had to leave the office and do it. In reality people can be more productive and balance their work and private lives better."