4 Myths about blocking Internet access in the enterprise

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Some enterprises think that blocking Internet access for their employees is the solution to many of their issues. They think that productivity will be increased, costs can be saved, less security and legal issues will occur and, since the rise of Web2.0 and social media in particular: less damage to their reputation can be done. […]

Some enterprises think that blocking Internet access for their employees is the solution to many of their issues. They think that productivity will be increased, costs can be saved, less security and legal issues will occur and, since the rise of Web2.0 and social media in particular: less damage to their reputation can be done. So if you are ever confronted with one of these four reasons for blocking the Internet access for your employees (or if somebody is using this argument to explain to you why your access to the Internet is blocked), you will know the answer.

Blocking will increase the productivity of the employee

This argument is based on the fact that if an employee is on
Facebook or Twitter, he is not working, but babbling and browsing
during the expensive hours of the enterprise. Of course that is true,
however it isn’t the complete story. Facebook and Twitter are not time
wasters every time these tools are used, they can be used effectively
to gather information, but they also are more effective in catching up
friends and family, most often more effective than a phone call that
will take an hour. The phone call takes more time than just a tweet, or
just a message on Facebook. People will not stop doing non-work things
during work hours if the enterprise blocks the Internet access, they
will probably still do it, but less effectively since one of the most
effective tools was blocked. Plus instead of catching up with
colleagues online, they will have to find another way: more coffee
breaks, more chit chat in the office and longer lunches could be
results of that. Not blocking Internet access can even help your
employees to get a better work-life balance, since they can do certain
things during work hours, which by blocking Internet access has to be
done outside office hours.

If employees are spending 10 hours a day on Facebook during office
hours, do not block, but ask why they are online so much, and if it
helps them in getting their work done. Just simple talk with employees,
instead of blocking access. They might give you the brightest ideas in
years on how you can utilize the Internet in a way to generate
business. And if they are being unproductive, you can have a talk about
and how to change that, blocking will not instantly change somebodies
attitude.

We will save a lot of money since our employees are wasting the bandwidth

Watching YouTube videos, surfing the web on non related websites are
most often bandwidth wasters. However visiting ‘useful’ (whatever that
definition might be) sites during work hours might be too. If something
doesn’t help you in task-completion it is a waste. Let’s have a closer
look at YouTube: is it a waste, are the instruction and training videos
on  YouTube a waste, or do they help sombody in completing his work? Is
an hour spend on Google less waste than five minutes on Facebook for
asking a work related question and receiving answers to that question?
Besides that, bandwith is getting cheaper every year and broadband is
widely available and is also declining in price.

Blocking will save you bandwidth, however will it solve the real problem (if there is any problem at all)?. The real solution? Talk with your
employees, ask what they do online and why they spend hours on YouTube
or other sites, they might be working more efficient than you were
aware off in the first place. They might be even doing customer service
on different platforms, or providing customers with instruction videos
for your products.

No issues with downloaded inappropriate content / malware

If this is a real worry, than there are more issues than just
possible mis-use of an Internet connection, it is a lack of trust in
your employees.  However if you are afraid of this, please note that
there is still something such as USB sticks which can help your
employees to distribute the inappropriate content or accidentally
install malware. Or, if you should also block external devices and USB
sticks, please note that not all inappropriate is digital, it seems
that there are certain magazines or movies that you might prefer not to
have in the office, or even not at all in the world.

Also closing your Internet connection only solves the download
issue, employees can still distribute inappropriate content or malware.
However, you could also put some effort in it and talk with your employees what one should and shouldn’t do in the office with the Internet connection.

Our reputation is at risk if our employees are online.

If your reputation is on the line by employee behavior, don’t be to
surprised, but employees also have an Internet connection at home.
People still can leak confidential information, provide misinformation,
spread rumors, or damage the image of the company in any other way.
However why would they? If you are afraid that ‘bad things may happen’,
again: talk with your employees, explain on how you
think they should behave online, however, listen to them on what they
think is correct online behavior.

Create a set of guidelines, together with your employees, on how you
should behave online and how Internet access should be used. Do not
make it a list which just sums up all things that are forbidden, since
then you’ll be waiting till somebody finds the next work around which
is not on your list. Make clear what is preferred behavior and discuss
this with your employees and let your employees provide input (or even
better: let them create the guidelines). It is really simple: blocking
is not a long term (nor a short term) solution for the issues that are
often mentioned. If employee behavior is a real issue with regards to
Internet access, discuss the behavior, since the attitude is a problem,
not the Internet connection.

You only block Internet access when you are afraid to talk with your
employees about their behavior. Preventing behavior does not solve your
problems, it will prevent them just for a short period of time.

Rick Mans is a social media evangelist within Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or Delicious

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