Do you ever nip off to the loo while you're at work for a quiet read of the paper? You're out-of-date. According to Analytic Concepts, a Californian software company, office workers in the United States are turning to computer games to escape the grind. Because a click of the mouse lets them look busy when the boss walks by, the games epidemic is costing companies millions in lost productivity.

That is why Analytic Concepts has developed GameCop, a Windows utility designed to "police and curb computer game usage in business hours". Installed on each PC, the program boots up with Windows and remains invisible to the user, periodically checking for an updatable list of computer games.

When it finds a game being played, the program pops up a memo from the boss to encourage the errant employee to return to useful work. If this isn't enough, an optional siren alerts others to the crime as soon as it is committed, adding to the "embarrassment and humiliation" of getting caught.

Larry Kimminau of Analytic Concepts, who wrote the program, noticed the problem as a consultant to ailing companies, when he would walk into offices to find that hardly anybody was working: all were transfixed to the particularly addictive Tetris. CaroleKimminau, his wife and colleague, observed receptionists of big companies spoiling their employers' corporate image by playing Solitaire in front of guests.

After a report on the program appeared in a US magazine last month, the firm received hundreds of calls, many of them from large companies and government agencies. A Macintosh version is due out soon. So if there are managers out there baffled by the lack of output from apparently hard-working employees, perhaps they should consider employing GameCop as their invisible vigilante.

GameCop, $39.95. For more information, call 001 408 371 3962.