Is Unrestricted Internet Access Bad for Productivity?
More and more companies do not allow their staff to access the internet at their desk. Internet access is restricted to separate systems that are shared between multiple people and are in public areas with the idea being that surfing in an open place removes the incentive to slack off and peer pressure is applied when their use becomes unacceptable by the wider team.
A small number of businesses also ban external calls at work, via the work system or your own personal mobile.
While these restrictions are justified as productivity improvements, staff end up working in a vacuum that consists only of skills and knowledge they have when they walk through the door in the morning.
Aside from security issues, is this really necessary? I appreciate that some people simply cannot resist procrastinating and checking up on their social networks every 1 minute but I’d also argue that at desk Internet access is as important as having electricity to your workstation. We know that it gives us access to an almost infinite array of knowledge, reference, learning, inspiration and also connections to people who can help us solve problems quickly.
Why limit the growth of everyone on your team because 1 person cannot resist Facebook? How and when do people find time to learn and bring new ideas to work?
I’ve ran several businesses and I’m aware of all of the implications of both sides of the story but I believe there’s a compromise that’s easy and almost free to implement. Put a transparent proxy between the internal and external networks and tighten it up bit by bit, but only for those who can’t control themselves.
Generate a real-time report of who’s online, this weeks top downloaders, this weeks top page hits and share it on your intranet. It works wonders and you’ll see the balance restored between having the freedom of at desk access to a sea of knowledge and the few who just cannot control themselves and need to be brought into line.
Unrestricted internet access is a critical part of successful businesses today, in particular those in creative industries where constant learning, inspiration and ideas are absolutely essential.