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).