What Employees Really Watch on Their Smartphones Isn't So Smart

job interview It's pretty much a no-brainer that watching pornography at work is a no-no. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of workers who do it.

A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 3 percent of workers admitted to watching porn while at work -- and they're doing it (so to speak) on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

The advent of such portable technology means some employees no longer have to rely on their work computers to get their... umm, daily fix.

But that raises another ethical dilemma -- or at least should. Just because workers aren't using a company computer to view X-rated matter doesn't mean that they're not tying up the company's wireless network while downloading it.

According to Qumu, a provider of business-video technology that commissioned the poll, a 90-second video clip is 700 times larger than the average email, putting greater demand on computer networks.

Of course, it isn't only NSFW material that's placing an increased burden on corporate networks. A majority (64 percent) of Americans with access to the Internet watch videos online while at work, the survey found, with men much more likely to watch than women -- 53 percent to 34 percent, respectively.

So it isn't surprising to find that only 9 percent of those polled believe employees are "very aware" of the toll that watching online videos on mobile devices may take on the speed and bandwidth of their company's wireless network, frequently the means by which online content is accessed.

The Harris Interactive/Qumu poll also showed that 74 percent of respondents believe that mobile devices prompt workers to surf the Internet for content they otherwise wouldn't access on their work-issued computer. Results showed:

  • 52 percent - Look for another primary job
  • 47 percent - Visit an online dating website
  • 46 percent - Look for a side job
  • 37 percent - Research an embarrassing illness/condition
  • 33 percent - Shop for lingerie/underwear
  • 20 percent - Investigate plastic surgery options

The survey also showed that 63 percent of respondents believe that workers "sneak-a-peek" on mobile devices during meetings, but aren't particularly clever in the way they do so. Take a look:

  • 47 percent - Hide their mobile device under the table
  • 42 percent - Excuse themselves to go to the restroom
  • 35 percent - Hide their mobile device in their folders/notebooks/papers
  • 9 percent - Pretend to tie their shoes
  • 8 percent - Create a distraction

On the other hand, Qumu notes, 37 percent of respondents said that they didn't think it was necessary to be sneaky about looking at a mobile device during meetings -- that it could be done in view of others.

All of this video watching while at work mystifies Andrea Kay, a Cincinnati-based workplace etiquette expert. "I'm shocked when I hear people do that," she says. "I'm thinking, 'When do you do your work?' "

Further, companies frequently have guidelines that govern use of computers, networks and other resources, and those often exclude personal use, says Kay, author of "Work's a Bitch and Then You Make it Work."

The fallout for failing to heed such rules can be huge, including job loss. "Why would you take the risk of being caught [and] putting your job at risk?" she says.

Increased use of technology, including mobile devices, has enabled workers to move fluidly between personal and work-related activities all the time, Kay says. "But that doesn't mean your good judgment goes out the window."

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