In a typical office, as many as a quarter of employees may be pouring over online pornography, while pretending to be engrossed in work. It’s a practice that has been gaining momentum rapidly in recent years.
CYBERsitter currently blocks 2.5 million adult sites, and some watchdog groups claim numbers up to 10 times higher.
In reality, only 4% of the world’s most popular websites—and 13% of web searches—involve erotic material, according to Forbes. But much of that content streams during business hours, revealed Michael Leahy, a former sex addict and author of the book Porn @ Work: Exposing the Office’s No. 1 Addiction. He said that 70% of porn-viewing occurs between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. And more than 60% of human resources workers have discovered graphic content on computers in the workplace.
A high cost to employers
Leahy believes that not only is porn more accessible than ever, but many young male hirees are accustomed to regular online erotica: an atmosphere that normalizes pornography.
Yet this viewing can carry high costs, as author and former sex addict George Collins pointed out in his new book, Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession and Shame. These include extreme losses of productivity that strip away millions in revenue each year.
Another consequence can be the loss of raises or promotions from poor or stunted performances. In extreme cases, workers have even sued employers for establishing unsuitable work environments.
An addiction as strong as cocaine
Emotionally, excessive pornography use is linked to depression, the loss of sexual performance and drive, and the destruction of family and social relationships. As usage progresses, a porn addiction can develop, which many researchers believe can be as strong as cocaine. It certainly has a similar effect on brain function, particularly the reward system. Excessive porn usage in the workplace can also be a sign of sexual addiction, which affects at least 24 million adults in America alone.
Like other addictions, workplace porn can become progressively more serious over time, with some people spending six to seven hours daily viewing while on the clock. Beyond the potential loss of a job, pornography addiction is often linked to obsessive and unwanted sexual thoughts that people describe as leading them to feel hopeless and trapped.
Professional help is available and can include individual counseling, group-based counseling or support from groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous. Counseling and treatment options can be recommended to employees with viewing problems. Both authors urge human resources professionals to have a plan in place for this.