The Web Invites Trouble For Employees


awkrsAmerican workers are finding a whole new way to slack off: surfing for smut.

A study of 185 companies conducted between November 1996 and this month by consulting firm Digital Detective Services, of Vienna, Va., found that a quarter of the companies’ workers visited pornographic Web sites.

Media Metrix (formerly PC Meter), the top Web-traffic analysis company, reports that 19 percent of users at work visit smut sites (compared with 69 percent for news or information sites).

And a Nielsen Media Research study earlier this year claimed that staffers at IBM, AT&T Corp. and Apple Computer Inc. made 13,000 workplace visits to the Penthouse magazine Web site during a single month.

From these numbers, it appears that the “smut break” has replaced the coffee break as employees’ favorite way of letting off steam.

But human resource managers and other company executives tell a different story, getting decidedly nervous when asked whether workers at their companies are getting sidetracked by visits to off-color Web sites.

A random survey of large and small companies outside the information technology industries revealed that few …