Is productivity loss from websurfing stealing from your boss? The answer may surprise you

Editor in Chief Paul Studebaker advises to enjoy on-the-job Web cruising without stealing from your boss.

By Paul Studebaker, Editor in Chief

If you negotiated the holiday season without shopping on the Web, you’re part of a diminishing breed. Analysts say $18 billion to $20 billion worth of holiday cheer was purchased this year via the Internet, up 22% to 25% from last year.

A significant portion of that shopping took place on what the National Retail Federation now calls “Cyber Monday,” the first workday after Thanksgiving. Apparently, people like to shop at work to take advantage of their company’s fast Internet service.

If they surfed on their own time, it would be no big deal, but an increasing number of workers are spending more non-productive work hours Web cruising on office machines. Spending company time doing personal Web stuff like buying gifts, bidding on eBay, reading blogs or updating your profile on is simply another form of company theft, no more defensible than stealing tools, supplies or any other company property.

And it’s becoming grand larceny. In a recent survey of 10,000 employees, respondents reported spending an average of 2.09 hours a day on “personal surfing.” That’s a quarter of the workday, and if the survey represents average workers, it adds up to $759 billion a year in wasted pay.

Times sure have changed. Back in the pre-Internet days of the ’80s and ’90s (when I was working in a magnet factory), when we had an opportunity to take a little break from the pressing business of the day, we read trade publications. Magazines like Plant Services had hundreds of pages, and we relied on them not only for the information we needed to solve problems and stay abreast of current developments, but also as a legitimate excuse to lean back and soak up some interesting reading that just might come in handy on the job.

Many of you still do your reading on paper, but an increasing number are turning to the Web. With much of the workday spent pointing our noses at the screens of high-speed networked PCs, it’s natural to go there to get technical data, answer questions and compare products, and tempting to spend some time cruising beyond work boundaries.

But you don’t have to steal. On those occasions when you have a little company time to burn, it’s far more responsible (and can be at least as entertaining) to spend it looking for new ideas and a better understanding of industrial plant performance, reliability, efficiency and management.

Open your mind at work, and you’re likely to find many interesting questions worth a quick inquiry. Got an unreliable piece of machinery? A job that always takes longer than it should? An employee situation you’re not sure how to solve? A concern about safety? Instead of running away from work problems by looking for distraction on the Web, why not use it to get information to help you get something done? It’s much more satisfying.

Our Web site is a great place to start. January 29, 2006 marks the 10th anniversary of For a full decade we’ve offered the best of the magazine on the Web site, and during the past several years we’ve added thousands of Web-exclusive articles, white papers, resources and links to valuable content on other sites.

Starting with the January 2006 issue, we’re adding a full digital edition of Plant Services, making every page of editorial and advertising available in a new Web-based format you can thumb through just like print. The full digital edition is fully interactive so you can click through to other Web sites – even deep links – for more information. You can e-mail links to pages of interest to friends or coworkers, and print a page or article with PDF quality. The new format makes Plant Services more accessible to your colleagues around the globe. They (or you) can go to, click on the subscribe button and sign up now.

Almost 10,000 qualified plant professionals all over the world have already signed up. They’ll be enjoying one more more good reason to have fun on the Web.

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