Why You Shouldn’t Crack Down (So Hard) When Employee’s “Waste Time” Online. It Could Boost Your Business.

Inc Magazine tech columnist David Freedman, writes in the August 2006 edition of Inc Magazine (which is NOT available online yet!!!) that companies should be careful and consider how hard they crack down on employees doing “personal” online surfing or other activities on company time. His article enlightened me and I hope you too about employees “surfing” on employer time, which many employers might have never considered before.
Sure, no boss wants to pay employees for a 10 hour day when 3 of those hours are spent playing online games at some online gaming site. But having a liberal policy of online usage, for “non work” activities could HELP a business. David makes several valid points to back this up.
1. Employees have always engaged in activities that are not directly related to the running of the business. Going to trade shows, reading magazines and etc. The Internet is simply another dimension of these activities.
2. He sites the Cenek Report by a human resources expert which states that employees spend 3.7 hours a week on the web for personal activities at work and 5.9 hours a week online at home doing work-related activities.
3. An employee who spends 15 minutes doing online banking and 20 minutes booking a vacation won’t take half the day off to do these things.
4. David’s most important argument is that recreational web surfing has become a kind of mental floss for workers. David writes that the employee who is literate about the online world is probably the employee who knows about the latest online trend and can bring it to your attention.
This point is so important. If you want your business to know the power of blogging, RSS feeds, online networking and more – you are not going to “get it” by cutting off web access for employees. The way to “get it” is to, within reason, let your employees roam the ‘net. If your employees are all day only doing what they’ve done for the past 6 months or 16 years – they are NEVER going to leverage NEW things for your business.
Of course you have to control online activities – porn, gambling, video games and things of this nature are a no, no. But encourage your employees to go online and see how they can use the ‘net for their personal well being while ensuring that what they learn is leveraged for YOUR business.