Surfing at work is on the increase, according to figures released by Neilsen/NetRatings. But workers should be cautious, as online abuse is becoming one of the most common reasons for reprimands and sackings.

The survey, which looked at American workers, showed that nearly 46 million office employees had logged on to the web during the month of August, a 17 percent increase on last year's figures. While these figures relate to the US we're sure that UK users are just as keen on surfing during work hours.

But staff should be careful when they use their employers IT equipment for personal purposes, as a recent survey
carried out by London law firm KLegal and Personnel Today magazine found that internet and email abuse was the top reason for employee reprimands.

Problems include spending an excessive amount of time online for personal reasons, sending pornographic emails and visiting adult sites as well as sending email messages considered damaging to a company's reputation. In the most serious cases employees were dismissed from their jobs.

Many companies are trying to counter these issues by introducing online guidelines for staff and monitoring employees’ online activities. While some might say that this big brother approach is an invasion of workers' privacy, PC Advisor readers are all for it. We carried out a poll asking if bosses are fully entitled to monitor all employee internet usage during working hours and almost three quarters of respondents said yes.

But if employers do start to check up on its staff’s surfing habits it could be women workers who are hit the hardest. Nielsen/Netratings found that female employees drove the increase in web use at work. The number of women logging on during office hours rose by 23 percent from last year, while the equivalent figure for men was just 12 percent.