Workplace internet surfing: A bane or a benefit

Surfing on non-business related websites are discouraged in most companies that I know, but still this doesn’t stop employees from taking a peek on their friendster,myspace,multiply, and/or facebook accounts, or socializing with friends using twitter, skype, and yahoo messenger. A vast majority of employees in the workplace now come from a generation that grew with the internet, and companies are trying to “control” the usage by establishing internet usage policies, putting up firewalls, and blocking websites. All of this is good, but there is always the proxy servers they could use for blocked websites.

I had an officemate who arrived at the office at 7AM, an hour before our work schedule. He went to his station, turned on his monitor and checked his email. After a while, he went to the pantry to make coffee, and then back to his station to read the news on the web or check his friendster and myspace account. We had a firewall at the office but somehow he had managed to check them by using proxy servers. Sometimes, he lost track of time, and only begun to do the “real work” at around 11AM, and before you knew it, it was time for lunch. Thing was he was not the only one surfing non-business related websites at work, it was tolerated even though there was an IT policy for this.

The monotony of office work can be boring and be downright depressing, and the internet gives us a breather, inspires our creativity and gives us a different perspective on things. Or it can just simply be something to wake us up after that heavy lunch we just had.

However, for some employers this could translate to increased cost in internet bandwidth and decrease in employee efficiency. If a lot of employees are watching videos on youtube, or playing online games, or downloading mp3 songs, it could use up a lot of bandwidth and delay important communications or real time data. There is also the danger of malicious software or malware that could affect your network, which your IT folks usually complain about when a computer suddenly crashes.

My stand is that anything that is abused will always turn out bad. Employers should still give employees a chance to do some surfing on their breaks, and employees should also learn to manage their activities on the web.  And knowing that the next generation of workers are already internet savvy, employers should really consider maximizing the use of the internet to improve employee productivity.

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