Economies all over the world rely on the Web. Without us even noticing, it has created a new digital economy on which we all rely. Regardless of whether you’re a one-man band in Surrey or a multinational corporation with offices around the world, chances are the Internet is front and centre of your operations.
To protect employees from inappropriate content or to ensure their productivity isn't impacted by accessing social media sites every ten minutes, most companies have an Internet usage policy in place. Don't think yours does? I'd check your company handbook if I were you.
The trick for companies is to get the balance right. It's important to ensure that employees are free to use the Web in their job role, but that they aren't wasting time on personal online tasks. It's an understandable position, but as more and more Generation Y individuals enter the workplace they expect access to the Internet as a matter of course. The upshot is that by coming down too heavy handed employers can actually demotivate staff.
Finding a balance
So what's the key to success? Firstly flip the need to restrict the web on its head. Instead think about how it can empower your staff and your organisation. All it takes to get the right policy is a little fine-tuning. For example, you might not want employees browsing Amazon at 10.30am, but don't mind if they do so during their lunch break or only spend less than an hour during the working day.
Here are some tips for striving to have the best of both worlds:
- First up ensure that your Internet Usage Policy is crystal clear and that all employees understand it
- Set a limit on the amount of time, say 30 or 60 minutes, that staff can access non-business related sites. This sets both your expectations and those of employees. Ideally don't just cut off their access to a web site when they are in the middle of something. Every time they log onto Facebook, for example, let them know how much of their time allowance they have left
- Make seasonal adjustments to your access policies and website controls. After all no one wants to be a Grinch at Christmas time
- The web is dynamic and constantly changing - make sure your company is adopting a genuine real-time content analysis categorisation approach to managing web traffic
Don't let your Internet Usage Policy turn employees into unproductive clock-watchers, instead think about how it can be used to keep employees happy, motivated and productive.
- Charles Sweeney is CEO of Bloxx.