Guest post: Limited Internet Access in Offices – Making it Work

The internet is a boon with so much information right at our fingertips. Alas, it is yet another two-sided coin, offering so many distractions – sports updates, movie reviews and personal emails – when there is important work to be done. Your company most likely goes with the majority in believing that internet access for your employees should be restricted. But the real question is “to what extent?” The company wants its employees to carry out productive work in the hours they get paid for. The employees need to browse the internet for various reasons, the most common being a stress-buster during the working day. You need to find the right balance of internet allowance that meets both objectives.

Some things are just a strict no-no

Pornographic sites are strictly forbidden. They are unethical and illegal. Access to personal e-mail sites like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter must be blocked completely. This will keep gossip, jokes, forwards and other forms of time-wastage away from the work place. Forwards also tend to have bulky attachments and multiple recipients, which hog undue bandwidth. More importantly, you don’t want company confidential data or any slanderous material being sent out which could put your company in bad light.

There are ways in which the internet is beneficial on the job

LinkedIn and other professional networking sites allow employees to view the profiles of personnel from other companies, such as suppliers, consultants, potential clients or even competitors, and find their contact information. An administration or a hospitality job will need a search engine like Google to get in touch with various dealers and for ticket or visa bookings. You employees will do well to keep informed of the latest news and to check how the company is doing on the stock market, if listed. Those in the technology field will need to browse through various online forums to find programming or hardware solutions when they face a blank wall. Logic games are a good way to sharpen the grey cells.

All work and no play makes a dull workplace

All employees need some time to unwind. Their internet access should be limited to a certain number of minutes in a day; 30 minutes of surfing out of the 8 working hours each day will not eat up much time; on the contrary, productivity will be boosted because the employee will get back to work with a refreshed mind. Here are some pointers for your internet access policy:

* Make sure you let the employees know the usage limits and that their internet usage is being monitored, with strict action to be taken in case this privilege is misused. Follow this up with actions to convey the seriousness of your intent.

* Since even the most conscientious employee can get carried away with distraction and lose track of time, prominently display a countdown timer on their computer screen. This will serve as a constant reminder to get back to work; you can lighten it up by using a humorous graphic or GIF clip to go along with it.

* If your company is going through a temporary work drought or your employees are really good and fast at what they do and manage to meet deadlines early, they deserve a little time off. Check with your IT department to see whether they are able to give managers the authority to extend the internet access limit for such deserving employees. This will work as motivation for others to perform better.

Provide them with alternatives to show you care

* Take a poll to determine how many employees prefer listening to soothing music while they work. If the majority votes in favor of the idea and if a cost-effective solution is possible, you can install intercom speakers to play soft jazz or instrumental songs in the background.

* You can set up a small recreation room with a dart-board, newspapers, magazines and the like. This will help to take your employees’ minds off the internet.


About the author:
Emma Timmins has 10 years of experience in Human Resources consultancy and contributes to Degree Jungle. She has been instrumental in drafting internet usage policies for several companies.