Research released today, has shown that online gambling is costing UK businesses £306,236,140 each year.

From the 664 office workers surveyed by Morse, the business and technology consultancy, almost a third (30%) confessed to placing a bet online during office hours or knowing a colleague who has. Of those questioned, the gambling culprits were most likely to be men (38%) and almost half (46%) were aged 25-34.

With the 30% of people online in the workplace admitting to doing this at least once a week for at least 15 minutes, companies are losing a very significant £306 million of productivity per year. This clearly shows the huge productivity strain this habit has on businesses, and highlights the need for employers to focus on enforcing acceptable Internet usage.

“Many employees have unmonitored access to the internet and the fact that they can now follow most sporting events online, coupled with the rise of Internet gambling websites, has tempted people to place a ‘quick’ bet online,” commented Philip Wicks, consultant at Morse. “However these bets all add up and can greatly impact businesses productivity. With online gambling set to rise by 22% this year, it is clear businesses can no longer turn a blind eye to their employees’ recreational activities. Instead they must look at methods that will control this addiction, starting with creating an Internet usage policy that must be adhered to and enforced.”

Online gambling is increasingly encroaching on the working week: 7% of office workers who gamble online admitted that they bet once a day and 15% confessed to gambling three times a week. Many employees are also in denial about the amount of online gambling they do at work with 45% claiming to only place a bet whenever there is a major sporting event. However, as there are approximately 30 major sporting events each year, the equivalent of one every ten days, these office workers are gambling more often than they, or their employers, think.

Of the office workers that gamble online, over half (62%) spend 15 minutes and 20% of them spend at least half an hour during an online gambling session, clearly impacting productivity levels at work.

Whilst it is easy to blame employees when it comes to online gambling, the fact that almost a third (28%) of office workers surveyed didn’t know what their organisation’s Internet usage policy was shows businesses are not educating their office workers and setting clear boundaries of what is acceptable. They are also failing to enforce their policies: the research found that 74% of male office workers admitted they still gambled online at work despite knowing the company regulations.

“Businesses need to decide if it is acceptable for their office workers to place a quick bet online, and if so, where they will draw the line and decide if it is impacting on productivity. However for those who do not deem this as acceptable, enforcing rules and regulations needn’t be the headache that they predict,” commented Wicks.

“By using a combination of education and putting controls in place to monitor and enforce Internet policies, and through logging Internet activity, businesses can ensure they are protected with a minimum of fuss and effort. If needed, such logs can also be used in the future to support HR in a disciplinary proceeding.”