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Seven of ten employees use IM at work to talk to family and friends, says Chronicle Solutions study

Office workers are exposing their employers to substantial risks - including legal action and regulatory breaches - by using instant messenger (IM) and web-based email (webmail) at work, according to a new survey.

The research, conducted by Chronicle Solutions, found that unmonitored technologies such as IM, MSN messenger and webmail email are frequently accessed and used by staff from company computers, leaving businesses open to legal charges and regulatory violations.

The survey reported that 71 percent of workers use IM at work to communicate with family and friends, over a third have received an IM or email message that upset or offended them and 29 percent of organizations have blocked or banned messaging websites. Moreover, a fifth of workers are not familiar with their company's policies on non-corporate email and IM, and over a fifth don't know if such policies exist.

According to the report, this inability to control the use of web-based messaging has left organizations vulnerable to legal action. It claims that high numbers of workers using IM means vital information could be leaked and information protection and publication laws could be breached.

Furthermore, the survey found that 36 percent of employees have used IM at work to talk to business contacts - including clients and partners - leaving companies open to potential legal proceedings. The research asserts that such communications cannot be proven or centrally accessed meaning disagreements cannot be effectively resolved.

Nick Kingsbury, CEO at Chronicle Solutions, said the rapid growth of instant messaging has crept up on organizations, leaving them under prepared. He said companies need to start protecting themselves and their employees by monitoring all user communications and educating staff on policy.

"It's clear from the survey, that the majority of workers are using IM, leading to potential liabilities for employers. It's becoming increasingly necessary for organizations to grasp the nettle of employee use of IM, webmail and other non-official methods of communication from work," he said. "Blocking may seem like an easy solution, and may have been accepted three or four years ago, but these technologies have also proven themselves to be invaluable in the workplace. By putting a system in place which monitors and records all user communication, organizations can protect themselves and provide freedom to their staff." 

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