What’s the Cost of Surfing?

Should employees be allowed surf the web for personal reasons at work? As with so many things the answer is of course it depends. As an employer I want to say no, of course not. As an employee I say I’ve got to be free to take care of a little business on company time. As an objective observer I can see the merits of each side. It really does depend.

Zero Tolerance
If you’ve got a bunch of young or irresponsible people on your dime who are prone to spend hours on end doing not much of anything, Internet or no, then you’re probably going to put a full out ban on any kind of non-work related surfing. If your business requires the skill of this type of employee as the norm they’re not likely to have much need for the web as a part of their job functions. (How do I get my babysitter to understand this?)

Free Reign
If your employees are bona-fide adults who consistently complete their job duties at or above expectations AND are reasonably free from addictive tendencies that could be triggered by gambling or porn sites, let them be. It’s not like you can police every keystroke. And why would you want to? Maybe reading about the Delta Northwest merger reminds your employee to call an old friend in the Pacific Northwest who turns out to have a new job with that big client you’ve been courting.

You Tube as Water Cooler
I graduated college long before You Tube, and yet I still found ways to waste time at work. I spent many non-productive Friday mornings discussing Seinfeld. Then I stuck my butt to the chair and produced quality work for my employer – on time and under budget. People need space to decompress and if laughing for a few minutes at a video clip or responding to a Facebook comment gets the job done, so be it. The difference is that now employees have so much more opportunity to interact with people outside their physical work environment.

Is that good or bad?

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