Staff use of the internet to conduct personal searches costs the UK economy £10.6 billion each year, according to new research.

Figures produced by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) suggest that the average British worker spends around an hour and a half a week during working hours surfing the web for personal use.

Additionally, it was found that 60 per cent of employers believe their staff regularly use office time outside of lunch hours and formal breaks to look at non-work sites.

"While an hour and a half a week may sound like a lot, it is not always wasted time. Productivity and morale can increase when firms trust staff to use the web sensibly to catch up with friends on Facebook, pay household bills, or search for a cheap flight," stated John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general.

However, he continued, the issue can become a problem when workers are spending excessive amounts of time surfing the web or are downloading adult material or putting an organisation’s reputation at risk.

Recently, Toby Thompson, a networked learning executive at the Cranfield School of Management, suggested that managers in the UK need to strike the correct balance in terms of the freedom they permit staff over internet use.