Using the web at work

There’s regular debate on whether people should be “allowed personal use” of the web while at work. While dinosaur organisations try and block this altogether and talk of employees “stealing time” this way, thankfully most don’t.

There’s always a liberty versus licence issue in situations like this. Even the liberal organisations tend to have some controls, usually to provide prudent proof that rogue employees weren’t doing something illegal, and so everyone tends to have some filtering and blocking.

Where I work, the debate rages every now and then, usually catalysed by a site being blocked for ostensibly good reasons but having unintended consequences. Like having to go home to get work done.

Thanks to Jackie Danicki for reminding me of this via one of her recent posts. She pointed me towards a discussion on the subject at TechDirt, which fundamentally made the point that all the studies supporting control of surfing at work were done by firms somehow related to the sale of control software. No surprise there.

Why is it that so many firms buy this argument, that staff should somehow be blocked from doing anything but work at work? The only explanation I can find is that even in the 21st century, people spend more time trying to measure and control inputs rather than outputs. More fodder for Fossilfools, I guess.

I thought that people get paid for results rather than effort. Analogous to JM Keynes’ engine of healthy enterprise being profit rather than thrift, controlling and monitoring inputs alone is not just dangerous but ultimately counterproductive. You might as well get knowledge workers to punch cards on their way in and their way out.

Which is fine, but then firms have to bear the consequences. Clockwatching. Work to rule. Unionisation. Contractual commitments to pay overtime. Jobsworth attitudes. Tunnel vision. You treat people like machines, you should expect mechanical results.

Why dangerous? If things go this way, I guess I can foresee a time where spouses and children start class actions against firms for providing their partner/parent with a BlackBerry. Stealing personal and family time….. I won’t laugh, it could happen yet. Oh frabjous day calloo callay.

And the correct fossilised response would be? To continue issuing the Blackberries, but telling staff they are banned from using them at home or outside office hours. Ricardo Semler come back all is forgiven.

As long as people “get their job done” and “do no evil” there should be an absence of inappropriate controls. Unwise firms will have to watch their key assets, their people, leave otherwise.

Let me know what you think