Do We Need To Be Big Brother?

Arlene Vernon

I recently heard a statistic that I just had to confirm. The research reported that 70% of all Internet porn traffic is done during the 9-5 workday. While I learned these aren’t new statistics, my guess is that in the past couple of years since the study was conducted it’s probably gotten worse rather than declined.

To compound that, here are a few more statistics:

  • 30-40% of Internet usage in the workplace is non-work-related
  • In general, the average worker wastes slightly over 2 hours per workday (doesn’t include lunch)
  • 28% of people who make online purchases do so from their offices

I know that as business owners and managers, you have more important things to do than stand over your employees to see how much time is being wasted. But two hours a day of lost time per employee is quite scary.

I had a client who was receiving a recently terminated employee’s emails to make sure nothing was dropped. He started receiving 20-30 non-work-related ezines per day forwarded from this employee’s email. It’s no wonder the employee was terminated for lack of results.

So what’s a manager to do short of a Big Brother approach to supervising employees?

  • Know your employees. Drop in more often – it’s great for the relationship as well as to increase employee accountability.
  • Determine and communicate your company’s philosophy on internet use (and other time-wasters). A zero tolerance policy for personal use of email is not feasible in most organizations. Nearly everyone with a computer at work is sending some personal emails. But a zero tolerance policy for accessing inappropriate sites is definitely enforceable.
  • Decide whether you want to block url’s or filter various web sites (social networking sites, porn, sports and entertainment sites lead the pack). Although there is a cost to this option, including potential employee morale issues, this may be the right choice for your organization.
  • Create a solid computer, internet and email policy. Make sure your employees fully understand that you own and can access everything they send through email, from jokes to official documents. And that there are ramifications for downloading software, viruses, spyware and of course, inappropriate items. This is one of the longest policies I write in an employee handbook, but the more detail, the better the protection.

It’s important to remember that there are positives to allowing employees to take care of a little personal business during the workday. Using email to check in on a spouse picking up a kid is a lot quicker than an extended phone call. And in our stressful work day, a 10-minute break to read the news on the internet could be just the refreshment we need to get back to work and focus.

But if we have employees who aren’t working 25% of their workday, there’s a huge productivity as well as financial cost to everyone in the organization.

Copyright (c) 2012 Arlene Vernon, HRx, Inc

About Arlene Vernon

Arlene has provided HR consulting and management training services to over 300 organizations since starting HRx, Inc. in 1992.

If you’re seeking a hands-on, practical HRxpert to assist your organization with employee relations, policy development, strategic HR activities or fun/doable management training, call on Arlene – Your HRxpert.

If you’re planning a conference, seminar or special event, Arlene specializes in keynotes, seminars and workshops to meet your talent management needs. And if you’re seeking a more lively entertaining activity, Arlene’s custom songs and musical-inspirational keynote may be perfect for your organization!

HRx, Inc., Eden Prairie, MN 55344, 952.996.0975www.HRxcellence.com. Arlene@ArleneVernon.com

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