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Workers Love Technology, But Many Use Company IT For Personal Reasons

American workers believe technology does more good than harm, but many admit to using technology "unethically," says a study from the Society of Financial Services Professionals.

American workers who rely on technology at their job believe that it does more good than harm, but admit to using technology for "unethical" purposes in the workplace, according to the "2001 Technology & Ethics Survey" sponsored by the Society of Financial Service Professionals (Bryn Mawr, PA), an organization of nearly 30,000 insurance and financial professionals.

By their own admission, almost two of three survey respondents were guilty of at least one case of technology abuse at work and 84 percent said they witnessed a colleague abusing technology during the same period. The three most popular abuses were: "Did personal Web surfing or shopping at work" (68 percent observed a colleague, 41 percent did so themselves); "Used company e-mail for personal reasons" (67 percent observed a colleague, 39 percent did so themselves); and "Played computer games during work hours" (65 percent observed a colleague, 34 percent did so themselves).

However, respondents view the abuses in varying degrees of ethical propriety. While nearly all agreed (93 percent) that it is "highly unethical" to sabotage computers or data, less than two-thirds said they find "exchanging vulgar or offensive e-mail" highly unethical and only 37 percent said "using work hours to network/search for another job" was highly unethical. "Using company e-mail for personal reasons" was deemed highly unethical by only 14 percent of workers.

The 2001 Technology & Ethics Survey also shows that workers are becoming more comfortable with technology. Ninety-two percent of workers responded "very comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable" when asked "How comfortable are you with using technology and equipment in the workplace?"

A large majority of workers also feel that IT has done more good than harm in the workplace. Overall, 84 percent see technology as beneficial. Ninety percent agree that technology "expands the scope of what you can accomplish" and 87 percent agree "it expands job-related knowledge." Other results include: 82 percent say technology "develops job skills," 80 percent believe technology "improves time management and 80 percent say it "improves communication with clients/customers."

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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