Some employers are becoming positively paranoid about the abuse of business internet facilities by employees.
It is certainly true that many working hours are “wasted” by employees using company time and company computers to do a bit of online surfing or shopping ... or whatever. It seems that hardly a week goes past without some bureaucrat being fired for downloading pornography on taxpayers’ laptops – thus confirming our suspicions about the sort of people who become bureaucrats and what they spend their days doing.
It is quite right – and rather satisfying – that bureaucrats are disciplined for waste of resources they are given as a public trust.
However, private business can and should apply different standards. Our best advice to anyone thinking of a drafting a policy on employee use of work computers for private purposes is “Chill Out, Dudes”.
Accept that if technology is available, then it is going to be used – and if it can be used for personal purposes, then it will be used for personal purposes. Just accept it.
If you think too much time is being lost because technology is being abused, just reflect on how much time you are saving because you have that technology. Are you really saying you would rather not have it? A degree of wastage is the price you pay for having the technology – a price worth paying.
Of course, it is possible to reduce wastage by a combination of monitoring and tight disciplinary procedure. However, taking the time to check employees’ browsing histories and follow up with disciplinary measures is just as wasteful as unauthorised surfing. More importantly, it creates the wrong atmosphere in the workplace. If you show you distrust your employees, then the best of them will seek work elsewhere, where they feel trusted and valued – and you will be left only with those who need watching.
Here is a better idea. Stretch your employees. Set them challenging targets. At worst, this will leave them less time to waste. At best, it will engage their interest, so that they do not feel the need to relieve their boredom with a little surfing at work. Indeed, they may end up doing work at home, in their own time and on their own computers.