Recently I heard of a company blocking Facebook, Hotmail, and quite possibly a few other sites from being access via the corporate network. This is not an uncommon theme in organizations. Even my own employer has restrictions on which sites are technically inaccessible and those which are just frowned upon. You would likely be shocked to learn which are available compared to those which are not.
In previous positions I have seen extremely strict policies surrounding internet access at work. To the point that my own manager would freak out because he thought I was using Gmail at work (I was actually using the official company hosted Gmail ). But in other positions I have seen full reign of access. Anything I wanted to access I couldâ€¦ anything!
A wide number of reasons have been used to filter content at the workplace. Everything from security and privacy concerns to â€œwasting timeâ€ on the job. To be honest those are legit concerns. If you are dealing with sensitive information â€“ especially the kind others people/organizations would pay for â€“ then there are concerns about controlling possible avenues to share that information. If you are wasting time, then you are costing a company money (your salary) for low productivity.
I favor an open approach when it comes to such policies, particularly when it comes to changing them mid stream. If you are use to being able to check your hotmail or twitter on breaks or lunch then to suddenly have that taken from you is disconcerting. Did you do something wrong? This was a nice perk of the office, why did you loose it? I do my job, do they think I am wasting time?
But what generally is observed is the application of a technology solution to an HR issue. Instead of blocking something outright, provide avenues to legitimately mentally check out for 5 minutes. If people are time wasters they will find something else if they donâ€™t have their twitter, hotmail, or MSN. They will chat at the water cooler, clean their desks, and chat on the phone. Key is they will find something.
It is more obvious in the technology world but the ability to access twitter, facebook, Slashdot, digg, etc, is often an aid in doing your job. The articles posted by friends and colleagues can lead to new technologies, methods, ideas which aid you in your career. To have these sites blocked makes absolutely no sense considering the wealth of knowledge that can be gleamed from them. Sometimes it is not even a matter of what you can do but what you should not do.
So while I have experienced a vast difference in IT policies I am curious as to your thoughts. Should employers filter content, block it entirely, or deal individually with â€œdistractedâ€ employees?