Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Should Companies Restrict Internet Access During the Work Day?

One of the most controversial topics you’ll encounter in the workplace these days is the question of whether or not management has the right to restrict Internet access. Some see it as an attack on personal liberties, while others view it as nothing more than a company protecting its investments.
It’s a complicated issue, to be sure. Let’s try to get to the heart of the debate by taking a look at the arguments for and against.
Arguments For Internet Restriction
Let’s face it: there are plenty of attractive nuisances in the workplace that can distract us from our work. The Internet is the most obvious, and it can really throw a wrench into workplace productivity.
When an employee clocks in for the day (literally or figuratively), they’ve signed a more-or-less binding agreement that they’re there to work. Anything that might prove to undermine that promise, or take their focus off of their work, should be viewed as a disruption.
As a result, workplaces everywhere have placed restrictions on which sites employees can and can’t visit during work hours. The phrase “time is money” isn’t just a catchy idiom: it also happens to be true. By restricting Internet access, employers are ensuring that the time their employees spend in the office is spent working.
Arguments Against Internet Restriction
One might argue that there are already measures in place to ensure that employees are actually working when they’re supposed to. It’s called a paycheck. Plenty of workplaces rely on qualitative and quantitative measurements to ensure that their employees are meeting expectations. If they don’t, they’ve probably earned whatever’s coming to them. The argument here is that anything that doesn’t negatively impact an employees’ productivity is best left alone. In other words: if an employee can get their work done even with unfettered Internet access, so be it.
Another argument against Internet restriction comes down to trust. Every employee wants to know that they’re trusted and valued. Anything that removes an employees’ ability to make a choice, no matter what the choice might be, can be damaging to their self worth and, in turn, workplace morale.
Bring-Your Own Device (BYOD)
There’s a further complication in this issue, and it comes down to a relatively new practice in workplaces across the country. A rising number of IT departments are allowing employees to bring their own devices to work with them (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) for work purposes.
The practice, known as BYOD, has been found to improve morale and even save money for the company. It would seem to be a no-brainer.
However, there are practical reasons why it might interfere with a company’s laissez-faire approach to Internet use. When an employee’s personal device is used as part of an office phone system, for example, it presents certain security risks.
Modern cloud technology and VOIP systems have made it possible to create an inextricably linked network of devices in the workplace. If the security of just one device is compromised, it can pose a risk to the whole system. Restricting Internet usage on personal devices, then, would seem a good way to curb some of the risk.
This will likely be a contentious debate for some time, but understanding the complications involved can help business owners make an informed decision, one way or the other.
Mike Simmons is a native and current resident of South Jersey.  Mike is a web enthusiast with a knack for staying current in a world of constant change.  When Mike isn’t reading the latest technology news, he’s sobbing about Breaking Bad or cheering on his beloved Liverpool FC.

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