I was joking around the other day with a friend about people on Facebook whose status’s seem to be entirely made up of riveting updates like “at work” or “only 3 hours left at work”. My friend shared my sentiment on the banality of these updates but said that she would never be able to send such a message because Facebook is specifically blocked on her computer.
Blocking social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is not an uncommon practice among organizations even as most businesses work to establish more of a social media presence. The basic message sent by organizations may feel very hypocritical as they say that the management sees social media as a good thing but that they do not want their employees to participate, at least not during working hours.
Other companies have similar restrictions on their employees’ computer use. Several places have uninstalled the basic games package that comes with Microsoft office to avoid unauthorized solitaire breaks while others have set up web filters so restrictive that it would be nearly impossible to stumble upon anything fun.
Depending on how the policy is enacted, tech policies can say a lot about a company and the attitude of its management toward employees. It is important to send a message that work time is for working hard and that employees should not succumb to too many distractions. On the other hand, an overly paternalistic policy can send the message that management does not trust the employees to be responsible about their computer usage.
Generally, I think overly restrictive policies are counter-productive. I think you can send a message about priorities by deleting solitaire from the computer but once you start blocking specific websites, it can start feeling like the employer is “big brother”. Instead it would be more effective for managers to make work expectations clear through their words and actions instead of using web filters to do it for them. Also, if a manager is a presence in the office, employees are far less likely to be able to immerse themselves in a 4 hour session of World of Warcraft.
What do you think?
Do restrictive technology policies make sense in today’s workplace?
Would a workplace based on trust have greater resiliency in tough times?