I heard a radio spot yesterday from Barracuda Networks. Their offer is to help companies make their workers more productive by blocking/firewalling them from websites and social networks that (as the ad infers) detract from employee productivity and company profits. Their ‘solution’ is to have companies employ their product as a step on the road to productivity. It’s a blatant scare tactic and the barracuda is a pretty scary looking fish after all.
It’s nearly a certainty that there are some business owners and/or managers that will consider this approach as a salve for some of their business problems. I’m not one of them in any way. Walling off employee access to certain websites and social networking is simply a terrible idea.
The idea of restricting access during the workday in order to ‘get people back to work’ will quite possibly have the opposite effect. Pretty soon companies that take that tack will ask employees to leave their mobile devices at the door when they come to work. After all many people now can adroitly access the web and social networks from their iPhone or other smart phone. Take away the websites and social media check-ins and employees will spend more time trying to find a way around it. So exactly how will that approach make things better?
Companies that restrict internet access are telling their employees – ‘We don’t trust you’. “We don’t respect your ability to make appropriate choices on how you spend your time during the work day.” And what kind of bright young minds would be interested in joining a company that approaches its business in that manner?
I’m not so naïve that I think employees always act in the most productive manner every minute of the work day. But is that really the goal of an employer? No I don’t wish that members of our team spend 3 hours a day on Facebook, LinkedIn or looking for a job on Monster or Career Builder, (apparently we had one that did that while here). But I ask those companies that think restricted access is a good idea – do your employees receive and respond to emails before and after the workday? On weekends? For many companies including ours the answer is an unequivocal yes. Granted our company is a smaller one with less than 25 people. But even if we were the size of, oh say Microsoft or Wal-mart, would the restriction of access to the web create a better and more productive working environment?
My take is if you cannot count on having smart, motivated people on your team who know the difference between what is appropriate and what is not, then you have the wrong team in place. It can sometimes be the job of managers to teach employees the difference if they don’t know it already. But forbidding access and censoring sites sounds a bit China like to me.
I wouldn’t want to be a part of a company like that – would you?