Today’s end-user: Hardly working

Malware, fraud, and listless workers spell trouble for productivity

The U.S. workplace is the new dysfunctional family. I’ve reached that conclusion after stumbling on a string of statistics that make me wonder how American companies ever get anything done, much less show a profit.

The first statistic comes from Dave Rand, CTO of anti-virus and Internet content security vendor Trend Micro, who tells me that spam, spyware, malware, and the like account for about a 20 percent productivity drain in the workplace per year.

Waters Davis, president of compliance suite maker D2C Solutions, offers up another nasty number: According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, internal fraud sucked 5 percent of corporate revenue in 2005.

I was initially tempted to dismiss those figures as propaganda from sources with highly vested interests. Yet both of those stats pale in comparison with a Gallup Management Journal report that labeled 56 percent of American workers as “not engaged” — that is, more interested in surfing YouTube than doing their jobs. Another 15 percent are “actively disengaged,” expressing their misery by “undermin[ing] their engaged coworkers.” (I owe the heads-up on the Gallup research to the publisher of a new book called Working the Clock, by Lisa Disselkamp.)

So let’s review: More than half of U.S. workers have checked out, which is probably preferable to the few really bad apples who are actively sabotaging or bilking the company. Meanwhile, Net-borne menaces hamstring the remaining good workers.

What to do? I suggest consulting “12 Quick Productivity Wins”, a collection of inexpensive, easy-to-implement tips for IT managers. It may not eliminate the fraud, malware, and disengaged-worker problem, but it will get your team’s performance level heading in the right direction — and deliver payback in a hurry.