“Can I Tweet @ Work?”

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So I heard an interesting story the other day. I was at a dinner and a friend mentioned that their boss had made the decision to enforce an interesting Internet policy at work. A filter? Nope. A ban on social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter? Nope.

Apparently, this friend’s boss decided that his employees should be prohibited from ever using their workplace computers for personal Internet use. That’s right. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No checking personal email accounts. No paying bills online. No reading news sites.

And not only did her supervisor mention that the company IS guys would be monitoring employee computer usage, but he had them sign a disclosure form saying they would not use the Internet for personal use. My first question after “Is that legal?” was “Is he insane?”

How important is staying connected with my social network to me? So important that I went out and got a phone with Internet so I could check Twitter after my workplace computer blocked me from the site.  Forget that.  Email. News. Weather reports. NPR. I cannot imagine not taking Internet breaks periodically throughout the day (or simply concurrent with my other work). Other people drink coffee or smoke every two hours. I Tweet. That’s all there is to it.

I had a coworker fired for inappropriate Internet use before. She spent the entire day watching YouTube videos instead of teaching kids. That was not a good idea, obviously. At the same time, I believe if an employee does his or her work and does it well and is judicious with their time, occasional Internet use is not a major problem. Having Big Brother watching you all the time? Now that would be a problem.

I find it incomprehensible that a workplace in this day and age would insist on such draconian measures. Internet breaks are actually good for employee productivity.  If the economy weren’t so bad, I’m sure my friend would leave. Let’s put it this way. The typical workday is from 9AM-5PM. Checking a news site or an account balance online is akin (in my thinking) to taking your break to the water cooler and talking about the Phillies. It’s a mental refresher. It helps you refocus and get back on task. And given that everything is online these days, it makes sense that so many of our tasks require a computer.

Inspired by this horror story, I decided to research my own company’s policy on Internet use by employees. As far as I could tell, we’re not allowed to forward jokes (ha!) or conduct job searches. Good to know.

So tell me, what are your employer’s Internet requirements regarding personal use of a work computer? Or is this the worst story you’ve heard (as it was for me).

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12 responses to ““Can I Tweet @ Work?”

  1. There was an article a few months ago about how it’s important for workers to take breaks during the day to keep productivity high. The breaks included checking personal email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

    I’d find the article, but I’m at work, and the Internet is blocked.

  2. Some companies don’t allow gamers where they work either on the logic that they “never completely leave the game” and can never be entirely devoted to work.

    I think the “always on” nature of social networking is what scares employers away. They’re afraid of some must-reply Tweet popping up during some hot project, and just can’t have that.

    Restrict it to lunch and breaks? Fine. Ban it entirely? Ridiculous, and in many ways unenforceable. At the very least, start paying these peons a little more to make up for the fact that their downtime is now completely pointless, and so they can avoid decent Internet service on their own.

    Disclaimer: I’m the boyfriend of the friend in this post. :P

  3. At work, I cant access personal email either… Facebook/ Youtube/ MSN Anything where information can be shared has been blocked.

    Twitter hasn’t been blocked (yet, it’s coming soon im sure). Thank goodness for blogging & news to keep me sane. I’ve ‘caught’ everyone reading the news every now and then.

    I think more than productivity (in an 8 hour day, an average worker is productive for 6.25 hours), it’s about privacy when you’re working at a bank/ insurance company where there’s TOO much client information on your computer… It’s probably the worst thing in the world for poor workers like me, but it’s probably necessary.

  4. I worked at a place where they installed filters blocking certain websites, and this was before Twitter, and Facebook. Personnel email, news sports, weather were all blocked. I also found that if I needed to do some research that some of the sites I needed were blocked too !

  5. I work for a company who has more than a few clients with a no-Internet policy. Ironically, these clients are trying to adopt Twitter as a way to communicate with their clientele. The appointed tweeters have to *leave* the company grounds to tweet company-related info! how’s that for a double-edged sword?

  6. Yeah, this seems to be more and more common. Not terribly surprising, either. PA is an at-will employment state, as are most others, so companies figure they can do what they want without little justification. I know more more people who did what you did and access things via their phones. I will not be surprised to hear about workplaces trying to collect cell phones at the door to try to combat this. THAT could be a little tricky legally, but if you are using a company’s property (network and computer) I guess they can tell you what you can and can’t access.

  7. My job is basically like sitting in a waiting room for eight hours: social networking sites are allowed for the mental health of the staff. And use of them, and other non-work-related sites is essential to productivity (because otherwise we’d fall asleep at our desk and not report any traffic), and expected by the management.

  8. Another example of someone lacking the knowledge or motivation to manage. Given clear goals and aggressive, yet achievable, goals employees don’t need ridiculous mandates about personal time.

    Try telling them your personal phone and computer can’t be used for work. “It’s a policy we have at home.”

  9. I don’t have a computer at work, but I have an iPhone. I use it mostly to check Twitter but also stay current with my personal email and to Google phone numbers that don’t leave voicemail messages.

    The ability to go online from mobile devices isn’t mentioned anywhere in our by-laws and I didn’t ask permission. I’d rather ask forgiveness. But, given my job, it doesn’t effect productivity but I must admit, it still feels a tad unprofessional.

  10. At my last job, the CEO actually sent out a memo MANDATING Twitter use by all employees. My current job is at a startup, so nobody cares what we do in between getting stuff done as long as we get stuff done. IMO that’s the way it should be.

  11. But, given my job, it doesn’t effect productivity but I must admit, it still feels a tad unprofessional.

    Vincenzo, I feel the same way.

  12. At my last job, the CEO actually sent out a memo MANDATING Twitter use by all employees.

    Chad, I’m insanely jealous. No, really.

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