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Users Behaving Badly

May 05, 2014

Users Behaving Badly

News flash: Users sometimes do things with their work computers that they’re not supposed to. Even when they know better. Even when they've specifically been told not to.

Right. In other news, rocks are hard and water is wet. Is this a surprise to anyone? But what could be a surprise is that we now know how many of them are committing these workplace computer transgressions.

According to a recent survey of 300 IT administrators, a whopping 92 percent see their users doing things on their work computers that they hadn't ought to be doing. What are some examples?

  • Browsing social media websites—82 percent
  • Opening inappropriate email attachments—57 percent
  • Downloading games—52 percent
  • Plugging in unauthorized USB devices—51 percent
  • Plugging in unauthorized personal devices—50 percent
  • Downloading illegally (e.g. pirating movies, music or software)—45 percent
  • Looking for other jobs—39 percent

But some commentators didn’t see that 92 percent statistic as “whopping” at all.

The only thing surprising about the resulting IT Admin Behavioral Study is that the company described the results as surprising—and that fact that only 92 percent of IT admins report troublesome habits among office workers using company computers,” writes Noreen Seebacher in CMSwire. “Are the other 8 percent of IT admins ignorant or just naïve?” She notes, however, that perceptions of “inappropriate” actions probably vary a lot between industries.

One also wonders how many IT administrators perform such activities themselves. Is it akin to “shadow IT,” where some of the worst offenders of running unauthorized software are IT users themselves?

The survey didn’t say how the IT administrators had observed their users doing these things, nor over what time period. For example, is this from walking the floor and seeing users do this, or from monitoring user behavior remotely? Do IT administrators answer “yes” when they see one user, over a period of five years, checking out Facebook or plugging in a USB? If that’s the case, one would expect the percentages to be higher.

Whatever the frequency and depth of the violations, they do appear to be causing trouble: 90 percent of the respondents said that they’ve witnessed problems with company equipment because of these inappropriate actions. These include:

  • Viruses—77 percent
  • Slow computers—74 percent
  • Crashed computers—55 percent
  • Mass popups—48 percent
  • Inability to open email—33 percent

The worst part, however, might be the effect on the IT administrators themselves. First of all, 23 percent of IT workers say they put in between 10 to 20 extra hours in a given week because of these kinds of issues. In fact, 4 percent said that these problems have caused them to work more than 40 extra hours in a week—that is, 40 hours on top of their regular job.

Moreover, these sorts of problems apparently make IT administrators cranky. 70 percent said they feel frustrated, 60 percent said they feel angry, 32 percent said they feel discouraged, and 12 percent said they feel like quitting their job due to these user activities.

Fortunately, 94 percent of the IT administrators surveyed said there are things that could make them happy again. These include: 

  • Better security software—66 percent
  • Using remote access software to fix problems—47 percent
  • Disk cleanup software—44 percent
  • Automatic backup solutions—40 percent
  • The ability to telecommute—29 percent

Oddly, raises didn’t seem to make the list.

Comments 3
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Submitted by Skilldibop on

Raises dont reduce stress and most IT admins have already asked for a raise and been told no.
Myself included.

Submitted by Tim on

The easiest answer is have staff work from home. Not only are company computers and servers less vulnerable, but the company can cut back on IT admins. Oops. Did I say the wrong thing?

Submitted by rwong on

A very important and useful IT tool that is missing in that list is enterprise web filtering software.

An enterprise web filtering software prevents desktop users from pulling malicious content from certain websites. It also prevents or moderates the majority of employee's online activities deemed inappropriate in the survey above.

That said, the survey's summary shows a bit of disconnection between the management and the reality. In particular, in a knowledge society, knowledge workers routinely find the need to collect and share information relevant to their work.

If employees are completely disconnected from the internet (which apparently explains the remaining 8%), they will not be able to innovate on their work. This may be perfectly fine for some industries that do not need innovation, though.

What is needed is a platform for employees to share their knowledge internally, and also a platform for exchanging information between employees and the company's clients.

Best of all, the IT can have full control of this platform, so that the user experience can be streamlined and any misuse can be fixed quickly.

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