Personal and Professional Unavoidably Intersecting?

That’s what Michelle Golden suggested last week, and I tend to agree. I see this most plainly trying to document the time I spend in the office. I’m an hourly employee, technically I’m supposed to do work in the office, and then stop. Except, in the era of constant connectivity, how am I really supposed to do that? Am I supposed to only read e-discovery or tech articles in Google Reader during work hours, and never at home? Am I supposed to plan a lunch meeting with a friend only during the evening hours, and hope we don’t have to change plans after I leave the house that morning? Am I supposed to only look at the Twitter folks I follow who are directly related to my job function?

The whole concept is ridiculous for a knowledge worker. Do I stop trying to gain any knowledge about my field at 5 o’clock each day? Of course not, that’s not good for me, and it’s not good for the firm. Not to mention the fact that I was issued a blackberry, obviously someone has some expectation that I’ll keep an eye on it and reply in an emergency.

Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, firms are constantly telling their employees not to spend too much time on the internet, or blocking sites that they deem “personal”. Michelle makes some points that I’ve been saying for years now:

I’ll briefly touch on policies, too. Frankly, as much as companies have tried over the last decade to stifle employee access of third party email sites, interactive websites, etc, it’s simply impossible to restrict the entire internet. Why bother to lock out hotmail/yahoo when people have email and text on their smart phones??

That era is over.

And it’s dumb to block most websites, too. Disallowing Linked In, Facebook, Blogs and Twitter (yes, some firms lock down all of those) is cutting off your firm’s nose to spite its face. These are valuable marketing tools for those who wish to use them that way.

Michelle also points out that the way to deal with issues is the same way I enforced our policies back when I was working as the lone IT guy:

So, don’t spend a lot of energy worrying about who is using what forum and instead, if issues arise at the individual level with regard to performance, then address problems one-on-one with that individual. Worry about people not getting their work done is the real issue behind the bans, anyway, right?

Today’s reality is that there is little choice now but to trust the way people spend their “time” is appropriate, overall, and simply hold people accountable for the end result: either they are cutting the mustard with performance, or they aren’t.

Couldn’t agree more. If you have people who are not being productive, what makes you think blocking Facebook is going to suddenly change that behavior? How about if you just solve your personnel issues without involving IT? Don’t we have better things to do than keep track of all the various websites users might be wasting time on and blocking them? I know I do.

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