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Does limiting internet usage increase workplace productivity?

Updated on November 18, 2013

There are many factors that come into play when considering the productivity level of staff in any given workplace. One major component that has surfaced over the last decade is the internet, and in recent years, more specifically social media. The draw of it has been thought to distract employees from their given tasks, in turn lowering their productivity. There are different components to weigh in this topic, such as company size, culture of the business and moral ethics of specific employees. Various measures have been taken by employers to limit, monitor and deter internet usage through software and hiring outside companies. This is the case in my office, we have software that monitors everything that is done on our computers.

In today's society, I feel like big brother is lurking around every corner. Being in his last semester of college, Mike has to write his every last thesis paper ever! I am under the impression that this is almost a rite of passage, so to speak, a huge milestone that he gets to leap over. But, I have to remind myself that I love to write and he, on the other hand, finds writing to be tiresome.

His thesis is something along the lines of: monitoring employees’ internet usage during work hours does not increase productivity, but on the contrary decreases productivity. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. On one hand, I completely disagree with Mike's argument, feeling that if people are not allowed to be distracted while working should keep them on task, in turn making productivity higher. Then, thinking about it a little more, there is almost a feeling of resentment that would go along with being watched. I think it just boils down to good employees will always have high productivity and the adverse is true for bad employees.

There was a study done in Australia that concluded that when allowed to use some work time to surfing through personal social media sites showed an increase of work productivity by 9%. They claim that when given allowed break time, it helped employees check out for a few moments, and return to their tasks refreshed and rearing to go. I think that they bring up a great point, people do need breaks. When I was working in restaurants for years, I took up smoking to be able to have a few minutes outside to myself, puffing away. Those few moments of relaxation helped me cope with demands of my highly stressful guests. I am not advocating smoking and am very thankful that I have kicked that terrible habit, but a smoke break would be nice now and again, so why can’t I take a few moments to myself to see what’s trending around cyberspace?

I feel that in my case (my boss monitors everything we do at work) that I want to be defiant. Of course, I get my work done no matter what, but if I am done with my billing reports, claims, emails, various art projects and scheduling for the day that there is nothing wrong with my surfing around the internet for a little down time (which rarely I get time for). Now that I am "not allowed" to be free to make my distraction level decision on my own, I find that I am less likely to get my work done quickly for fear of utter boredom later. I also have a little bit of resentment towards being monitored. We are no longer in high school; we are all adults, why can’t we be treated as such?

Is it really the norm that people are less likely to do their work with the internet right there? Am I being naïve in my belief that people actually have self-control? I probably am. But, who is to say that it is always better or worse to monitor employee usage? It is probably more on a case by case, employee by employee basis. Then this brings in favoritism, which is completely frowned upon. An employer cannot limit or monitor Susie Internet-surfing-terribly-unproductive-employee and not John self-control-master-awesomely-productive-employee. that leaves us at a stale mate of sorts.

There are also places of employment that have to be careful about security like banks and doctors' offices. They have access to very personal information that needs to be protected from hackers and corrupt employees. With that being said, I do not see why my office (a freight forwarding company/private art collection; yes, I know it is a strange combo) has to be locked down like Fort Knox. But, I guess it is not my company so I should just let it be.

In some cases, social media is the way that (usually small) businesses advertise themselves. In this sense, the internet is a necessary evil in their workplace and can offer a cheap, or even free, way to spread the word about their business. This is the situation for the art gallery that I run. We advertise exclusively through social media and it has been fantastic for our growth.

All in all, I believe that people need to monitor themselves. Social media has slowly taken over our lives and it is sad to me that we cannot unplug ourselves long enough to get our work done. I enjoy cyberspace just as much as the next guy but while I am at work, I am there to get my job done. Hopefully, society will be able to practice more self-control. At the end of the day, I know that is too much to ask and there will always be people who push the limits or test the system. Those are the bad apples that will always ruin it for the bunch of us that are honest employees; those apples will make companies spend unnecessary amounts of money and time installing software to monitor and restrict the internet.


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      5 years ago

      Long before the computer age, big brother has been trying to monitor our lives. Social Media wasn't even a word. Hash tag? What's that? I agree with this author. We must admit and acknowledge our information can easily be viewed and monitored. Keeping that in mind, there's so much knowledge on the web giving employees access to search and answer almost any subject. Good, devoted employees won't abuse the access and as this author points out, the ability to stay in touch makes for a happier and more productive staff. Great info. Great subject matter.


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