Office gossip travels faster than ever before thanks to the wonders of instant messaging (IM), email and online blogs. That's according to a study by office furniture firm Steelcase.

Two thirds of us admit to gossiping about colleagues and company news, the research found, with one in ten office workers using IM or email to spread the word, making the news travel even faster. Staff areas in the office, such as the break room, are the most common places to spill the beans on your colleagues though (36 per cent do so), closely followed by someone's desk (33 per cent).

It seems we prefer to gossip about specific colleagues - who is doing well, having an affair, or battling personal problems. Rumours concerning company changes are also popular topics - mergers, redundancies, managerial promotions or staff changes - the Workplace Index Survey on the Nature of Work study found.

Email bites back

"The way news travels at work - both formally and informally - is fascinating to watch," said Chris Congdon, manager of corporate marketing for Steelcase.

But beware before you send off that email criticising your colleague - it could come back to haunt you. Your colleague could sue for harassment, using the email as evidence in a potential defamation case.

And as we've seen in many cases already, anything that you post up on a blog or mention in an email that can be traced back to your employer can have serious consequences, such as you losing your job.

The average employee spends 65 hours a year gossiping at the office, Steelcase said. Some 700 office workers took part in the survey.