It’s a matter of trust

Saw this post today and it set off some random thoughts in my head, so being the self-absorbed blogging type, you get to read them.

Blocking Access to Web sites at Work Could Backfire

It seems that a recent study is showing that people who work for companies that block a lot of access to sites where they might be able to take care of personal items while still working, might lead to lower job satisfaction.

Gee, do you think? Let’s look at this from another perspective. Let’s say you have a Gmail account. You’ve used it for a number of years to subscribe to some tech newsletters, and take part in some tech mailing lists. You’ve even used it as your point of contact with professional organizations, or alumni organizations. It’s the email address your family writes to you to keep you in the loop on family plans, maybe you even have a shared family calendar on a social networking site. You go to work, and for 8-9 hours a day (sometimes much more!), you can’t access any of that.

Why can’t you access it? Is it because there’s a really significant security risk from using web mail or a web-based calendar? Is it because viewing those materials might cause the organization to come under legal fire, say as a hostile work environment? No, although those are the exact reasons you’ll get if you ask, in many cases. (And yes, there may be a slight risk of those things, but it’s very slight, and is easily address with acceptable use policies that don’t include blocking access.) The truth of the matter is, you can’t access any of that because your employer doesn’t trust you to get your job done with those sorts of “distractions” available.

Yes, the place that is telling you how valuable you are, that spends gazillions of dollars on retention plans to attract and keep talented workers, turns around and says to them “You can’t be trusted, if we let you access web mail accounts, or social networking, you might waste time”. Yet, how many of you have to go home and flip through those same emails, and newsletters, and take extra time to take care of little activities and errands that could easily be done in very little time from the office? How many of you read job-related blogs, or post to message boards and social network groups related to your work on your own time because you can’t access them at work? How many of you deal with your work email account on your time? How many of these same places that will not allow you to access Gmail during work hours, force you to carry a Blackberry during your off work hours?

Yup, sure makes me want to be a loyal and dedicated employee.

Yes, the lines between work life and home life have been blurred, and they’re probably never going back. Technology has assured us of that. But businesses shouldn’t be the only one’s who benefit from that technology. Our home and personal lives should benefit from the ease of communication and interactivity the web provides too, even if that does mean I spend a few minutes looking at a Gmail account or posting a comment to a blog during the work day. Good employees will more than make up for those few minutes, just trust us.


Technorati Tags: Webfiltering, employment

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  1. It’s just silly. God forbid I should check scores on ESPN, though I can find another site for a particular score. Other problems I’ve had lately is with attachment size on work e-mail and the blocking of attachments with particular extensions. My employer blocks Yahoo mail, so I end up using a Fastmail account.

    Last week a client who spends a good deal of time on the road could not get pictures e-mailed because of a size limitation. I gave him a “tip” to check out, but then told him that he didn’t hear it from me.

    I have heard rumors about people being terminated for repeated use of ebay on the job, even if they were trying to get something work-related. The only thing worse than having to put up with these dumb restrictions is to be the guy who has to review the daily Internet traffic logs – what fun!

  2. Marc, when I was the guy in charge of network security I used to tell every new hire that the logs were kept, that I had access to them, and I could check them at any given moment, so act accordingly. Then I would also tell them that there was no way in heck I wanted to spend a lot of time reviewing them, so if they did there job, and the supervisor never asked me to check on how they were spending their time, I probably would never look at them.

    To me, that’s what the logs are for (aside from actual illegal activity), if someone isn’t getting their job done you can check the logs to see why, and act accordingly, but if they are getting their work done, who cares if they look at ESPN?

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