Filtering sites won't make workers more productive

So your employees are shopping on Amazon at lunchtime. At least they're around to answer the phones

"Research reveals that 60% of all online shopping happens at work," said the press release in my in-box.

"That's nice," I thought, "I'm glad employers are enlightened enough to understand that this sort of casual borrowing of company resources is good for morale and hurts no one."

Except that I am wrong. They don't understand anything of the sort.

The typical corporate response to any kind of economic pinch is to make employees as miserable as possible because a) misery looks remarkably like productivity on a PowerPoint slide and b) there's no danger of anyone resigning, due to the aforementioned pinch.

So we install web content monitoring and filtering systems that track our every click and ensure that every neuron in your head is engaged in billable work at all times.

But the Law of Conservation of Skiving states that you can't increase productivity by hitting people with bigger and bigger sticks. If we can't shop at Amazon, we'll just go back to catalogue shopping over the phone or doing our shopping in our lunch hour, instead of being around to answer the phone. And we'll make up the difference by stealing more Post-it notes and A4 pads.

And what of the economy? Do we really want to introduce measures to reduce the flow of money in the retail sector right now?

Free access to the internet does waste an awful lot of time. Lord knows, I am living testimony to that. But online shopping is mostly pretty quick. I can go from never having heard of a book to paying for it, in about 20 seconds with customer recommendations and one-click purchases.

I spend more time each day blowing on my coffee to cool it down than I do shopping online. Why aren't there any press releases for corporate coffee machines that dispense beverages at a precisely regulated drinking temperature?

Or better still: something to bypass the coffee mug altogether and inject caffeine directly into my heart.


More columns by Luis:

Why adding 3D graphics to games was a bad idea

Why Mac clones defeat the whole point of a Mac

The 10 most annoying things about the web