Some Questions To Consider
- The world gets many headlines about personal surfing at work, but has anyone studied whether this was actually damaging to a business? Is it possible that personal surfing actually substitutes for tasks that would normally take an employee away from work? Do people who personally surf at work tend to make it up by doing work from their home computer or talking business through their lunch times? These answers are unknown but perhaps they should be researched before organizations move forward with unpopular policies.
- Does today's sped-up work environment actually require that certain workers take multiple short breaks in order to actually work the pace of 2007? Does personal surfing happen when an employee is tied up on hold or multitasking to everyone's benefit? Might these mental breaks most likely happen during a lull in the action or when an employee is effectively caught up? Is anyone — including people at the very top — ever expected to stay on task for 28,800 continuous seconds per eight-hour day? Do the people who use your systems for their personal use tend to stay after hours helping a customer or finishing a project or do they fly out right at 5 p.m.?
- Has anybody looked to see how naturally abusive people who were blocked from personal surfing found other ways to waste time?
- Do companies that try to quantify and monitor every single activity, keep employees shackled to their desks, restrict workplace amenities (like access to the best of the Interet) that make life a bit more pleasant and demand 100 percent purity of effort, ultimately create a dehumanizing environment defined by resentment and excessive turnover?
- More importantly, do companies that recognize a degree of inevitability when it comes to how all employees devote themselves during a stressful workday and then allow for some reasonable portion of personal time vs. professional time, somehow end up with happier, more loyal and ultimately more productive employees?
An Alternate Strategy
The Internet (including the now-critical e-mail) is so massive that it has its own gravity and the benefits to you and your entire organization are simply immense. The revolutionary leap in scale, scope and schooling matched with the continuous merger of the Internet with telephone, television, film, education, romance, research, investment, politics and music makes it bullet proof to overstatement. The Internet is critically important to nearly every economic and social system in our world. All in all, it's a pretty tough thing to harness, suppress or restrict.
On top of everything, there is just no denying its power as a distraction from everyday objectives. Presented with a double-edged sword of a problem, our first question does not have to be, "should we or shouldn't we restrict access to this?"
Instead, our first question should be, "does restricting access to the Internet even work?" And then, "what kind of collateral damage might these restrictions produce in the workplace?" Closing it off or locking it down just doesn't feel like a well-educated response to a potential problem with such a fantastic technological gift. Perhaps it's best to use a simpler measure to determine if any one thing is such a distraction as to be harmful to your business or a drain on your team's productivity.
Start by creating a lean organization. Make certain that your staff has been tasked with a fair, but still very challenging slate of duties and responsibilities and then give them the training and the tools to get that work done. Hold a meeting or two that encourages everyone to use the Internet appropriately, ethically and professionally. After the right amount of time has passed, use your investigative skills to see if the appropriate amount of work is actually getting done by each member of your staff. Focus on whether or not a person gets a job done, gets it done well and gets it done fast enough to be worth what you're paying for it.
Today, a strong case could be made for performance being the ultimate measure of who works and what works — is there really anything else? Your employees could see restrictions as the difference between a lockdown mentality and enlightened and progressive 21st century management. Which mind-set do you believe will attract those movers of heaven and earth that the most successful businesses always seem to find?
About the author:
Chris Traynor, SPHR, is the Director for Whip-Smart™ Management Consulting LLC, Wayne, N.J., and has 25 years of experience in the solid surface industry as a consultant to fabricators, distributors and manufacturers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.