War attacks productivity

War attacks productivity

By Bianca Lipari

More than 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched at Iraq as 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' got underway on March 20, 2003. The news that war had broken out was around the world within minutes due largely to the Internet. People are accessing various Web sites to get the latest developments on the conflict and many are doing so during work hours, affecting the productivity of Australia's knowledge workers.

Jacky Carter, the managing director of Hays Personnel believes that the current war will without doubt have an effect on productivity levels of employees as they surf the net for the most up to date information.

"I think it is inevitable as some people want to know about events as they happen and the war with Iraq is no exception. There will be the people with the Internet minimised to check for regular updates throughout the day," Ms Carter said.

Various news sites have already been experiencing an increase in traffic with this set to rise over the coming weeks. Bruce Wolpe, the manager of corporate affairs at Fairfax said that when an event like this occurs traffic increases significantly more than print circulation.

"We have already experienced an increase in strike rates and we are expecting this to continue. The same thing happened with the events of September 11 and Bali," he said.

So how are these sites responding to this increase in interest? Mr Wolpe says that Fairfax is now updating the sites 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We are having more copies, wraps, supplements and special editions than usual," he said.

The cost to companies is difficult to determine as each business has differing policies, software and access for employees.

"Across the board it will be hard to predict the impact for businesses. In the 1991 Iraqi conflict we did not have the same access to information so it was not even a factor. The closest thing we have to compare this to is September 11, which I think did impact considerably both in terms of motivation and productivity with employees wanting to know as much information as possible. However we really have nothing to measure this against as this is the first Internet war," Ms Carter said.

Mr Wolpe added that he could not comment on the effect on companies as each would be different and it would really depend on a variety of factors.

"The pattern with events like September 11 and Bali has been that the traffic grows for a period of time and then drifts off depending on developments," he said.

Internet users in Australia spend more time online at work compared than they do at home according to Web usage analysts Nielsen/NetRatings. The average Internet user spends at least two hours a day online and 31 per cent of this time is non-work related, with 57 per cent saying Web surfing decreases their productivity, according to an Angus Reid Group survey.

In a recent study conducted by the Computer Security Institute (CSI), 91 per cent of companies polled reported an internal Internet abuse problem. This Internet abuse results in poor employee productivity, slower Web connection performance and puts the company at risk for spam and virus attacks.

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