The internet has opened up a new dimension in private activities by employees during work hours. But, if one expert is to be believed, 'cyberslacking' is not necessarily a greater threat to productivity than pre-internet time-wasting. As we report today in Life on C8, the expert sees similarities between employees who slackened off before the computer age and those who waste time in cyberspace. They do it for the same reasons - either because they are cheating their boss or because it helps them work more productively. In other words, sending a private e-mail may be compared to a social chat at the office water cooler. His view may not convince employers worried about the proliferating use at work of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. A growing number of companies are moving to restrict or block access to sites because of concerns staff are spending too much time exchanging news with friends or on other forms of cyberslacking. Apart from the potential impact on productivity, there is a growing fear that information posted by employees could be used for industrial espionage or to somehow infiltrate corporate networks. These trends have prompted Britain's major trade union group to appeal to companies not to 'overreact' by banning such sites and social e-mail, but to set out guidelines that enable employees to arrange some of their outside life while still at work. It also warned that workers risked damaging their own reputation or those of their employers by posting inappropriate items online 'without thinking'. A blanket ban seems a draconian approach. A policy on reasonable staff use of the internet during work time would avoid sensitive issues like policing the private lives of employees or monitoring private conversations. After all, the internet is a two-way street that also enables employees to continue working from home, or even on a laptop on public transport, which can only be good for productivity and the employer. And as our story says, online shopping and banking among other activities can save time wasted during lunch breaks.