Specifically, let’s talk about work hours and home hours. Much is being made about this article, which quotes a new study that says that people with home internet access wind up spending more time working from home than they waste surfing at work. It raises some interesting points.
Here, we understand that there is occasionally going to be some down time and that you’re going to be doing some personal surfing. I’ve seen the monitoring logs and I can honestly say that everyone, and I mean everyone, does it. On top of that, there are a number of people here who get paid to do research. Myself, for example. Part of my job is to learn about new technology and decide what applies to our business and what does not. That takes quite a bit of research, and takes quite a bit of time. All of that surfing is ok, so long as you get your job done, no one is going to have much of a problem with you doing some surfing, whether it’s exactly work related or not.
On the other hand, certain things are absolute no-no’s. Gambling or any other illegal activities (including downloading copyrighted works) are not allowed. Porn is not allowed. Installing spyware is not allowed. (Technically you’re not allowed to install any software without permission, but I am an exception as I install things to test all the time) This is pretty basic stuff that I would think everyone should understand not to do in the workplace.
Then you get into more gray areas. Is posting to your personal website during work hours a bad thing or a good thing? That’s a bit tougher, because while it may only take you a minute some times, other times it might tie up a lot of your time. I, obviously, do post here during the day, but that’s because I work in an environment where that’s more good than it is bad. Since I don’t have a peer group at work, you guys become my peer group to bounce ideas off of, and to share knowledge with. Posting here during the day adds to my ability to do my job, because it allows me to learn about technology in a way that I wouldn’t if I didn’t have this forum. But it may not always be the case in every job. Certainly when you are in a more production-driven environment spending time writing up a long blog post takes time away from doing your job and that may be more detrimental.
You could also make the case, again depending on where you work and how the job is structured, that spending time looking at various tech sites is not productive because you’re looking at tech that your company doesn’t now, and is never going to, use. (Although I think you’d be hard pressed to not want as well rounded of an employee as you can get and probably shouldn’t discourage them from learning new things online even if they don’t apply to your direct business. It keeps their minds fresh.) My bosses have no idea what direction they’re going to go in the future so I need to be fairly well-versed in many different options, and again, because it’s just me, I have to have familiarity with a ton of different areas. That part of my job is the part that certainly carries over in to my home time. Don’t think for a minute that building a Windows 2000 server at home only benefits me on a personal level and doesn’t potentially hold a huge benefit for my employer. My reasons for doing it may be personal, as is much of the research I do during work hours, but my boss certainly benefits from it as well. (Yes I have a special situation with very blurry lines, but I do think that’s common in IT!)
I think the bottom line, despite what all the internet monitoring and blocking software salespeople will tell you, is that you really need to be flexible when it comes to this sort of thing. If your surfing is hurting your ability to do your job, there’s a problem. If your surfing is helping your ability to do your job, as it does in my case at this particular job, there is no problem. Both the employer and employee need to take the responsibility of working out exactly what is expected and how do best get the job done. They need to be adult about the whole situation and understand that they are there to get a job done. It’s in both of your interests to find a way to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Treating your employees like little kids isn’t going to help. Working in such a way that you have to be treated like a little kid isn’t either.
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