Surfing at work

I recently read a report, or a summary of a report at least, by the CBI on web surfing at work. Apparently, on average, employees spend 90 minutes of the working week surfing the web for matters of a non-work nature.

My first reaction was “is that all?” Let’s face it, that’s less than 20 minutes a day. I suspected if the report had been based on my organisation, the figures would have come out considerably higher. However, despite email and internet policy documents that we have circulated internally, the leniency and freedom that is generally shown to people using the internet in work time probably reflects one of two management sentiments. Either the costs of monitoring, reporting on and managing the results of internet abuse, far outweigh the benefits or as is probably more likely, most managers take a very liberal view on this issue. The latter, suggest the CBI, is probably the case, as people generally get their work done and don’t want to be treated like children. Additionally, they suggest that the internet is viewed by many as a “motivational perk” or modern day tea break.

Nevertheless, some limits may be a good idea for a number of reasons. A recent employee here took to watching YouTube (with earphones on). Not only did he interpret the lack of response to his actions as carte blanche to continue his illicit viewing, but undoubtedly, accessing certain sites can impact on the band width available for the rest of the organisation although granted, this is less of a problem these days.

There are of course also issues, as we all become more liberal in our attitudes to the use of the internet, that we increase the risk of downloading viruses.

I suppose as a manager, I always tend to opt for a liberal working environment, but I am conscious that individuals who abuse such benefits can spoil it for everyone. Also, I can’t help thinking that had the estimated usage suggested by the CBI come out at say an hour a day, my attitude might be different.

I think that this is one of those issues where the “jury is out” so in the meantime, carry on surfing.