Web Surfing at Work? Youre Out!

Opinion: Will baseball season mean that worker productivity will come to a screeching halt?

At this time of year, many peoples minds turn to thoughts of pleasant weather and the great American pastime. Winters over, and its time to follow the boys of summer.

To many of you, this is probably a good thing, but not for us here at the research firm of Rapoza, Rapoza and Rapoza. Instead of sunny days filled with hot dogs, pretzels and home runs, we see a giant sinkhole in American productivity—a hole big enough to bury the entire economy in.

In the first of what will be annual reports at this time of year, we have released our highly scientific study on the productivity that is lost during baseball season, as workers turn away from their jobs and surf the Web for information on that days baseball games. And, we warn you, the numbers arent pretty.

/zimages/7/28571.gifSpam is a major distraction for employees, according to a poll. Click here to read more.

According to our study, baseball season in its entirety will cost companies more than $10 billion in lost productivity. Thats right, $10 billion—enough to eliminate the deficit, feed millions and run many countries.

Clearly, something needs to be done, and we dont think simply blocking sports Web sites will be enough. Given the numbers, it seems that it would be cost-effective for companies to hire an extra worker for every employee—someone whose job it would be to stand behind staffers to make sure they arent reading sports Web sites.

Some of you are probably wondering how Rapoza, Rapoza and Rapoza came up with these numbers. Well, we dont want to get into the exact science of it, but we used basically the same methods that career consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas do in its yearly report on the worker productivity lost due to the NCAA college basketball tournament (a piddling $889 million worth).

Essentially, we estimated the number of hard-core baseball fans, guessed how much time they waste per day on surfing sports sites, used the average hourly pay for a worker and then multiplied everything together with the number of days in the baseball season.

Hmm. Now that its all there in black and white, this doesnt look all that scientific to us, either. I mean, there are an awful lot of assumptions going on, with the biggest being that the time being lost to baseball Web site surfing wouldnt have been used for other non-work surfing, or that workers arent using personal time such as lunch breaks to do this surfing.

And every day of baseball season isnt a work day, and peoples favorite teams dont play every day. Come to think of it, this is a pretty flimsy basis on which to implement companywide policies, such as blocking certain sports sites—a move some companies have taken in response to the NCAA study (which is based on no more a scientific method than the RRR study was).

In fact, if companies really want to know if workers are wasting time on the Web, they are probably better off using gateway logs or monitoring software to find out which sites workers are going to and how much time they are spending on them. In fact, one could make a good argument that the NCAA study is costing productivity at organizations that buy into its findings, as their IT departments are working to solve a problem they may not actually have.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read about "Star Wars flu" and IT employees.

Ah, forget such a common-sense proposal. Lack of logic and consistency hasnt stopped the annual NCAA study, and look at how much publicity Challenger, Gray & Christmas gets from it.

All we here at Rapoza, Rapoza and Rapoza need is for one major news outlet to pick up our baseball season study (that big $10 billion number should help a lot), and the next thing you know well be telling Katie Couric how much baseball hurts the economy. This baseball study could certainly prove productive—for us, at least.

And, have no fear. For while we at Rapoza, Rapoza and Rapoza decry surfing sports Web sites as an un-American attack on the U.S. economy, we heartily endorse one form of Web surfing—one that will increase your technical know-how and make you far more productive.

If your boss walks by and asks what youre reading on the Web, say, "Im reading eWEEKs Tech Directions! Now, how about that raise?"

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

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