Preventing Your Employees From Watching Videos Won't Prevent Them From Procrastinating

from the it'll-just-annoy-them dept

We've been saying for years that the notion that employee web surfing at work constitutes "lost profits" is nonsense. There is an infinite number of ways employees can waste time at work, from chatting with coworkers, reading magazines, or even taking a nap. Monitoring and restricting web surfing isn't likely to make employees procrastinate less, it'll just make them procrastinate in ways that are harder to monitor, and annoy them in the process. The Wall Street Journal has the latest example of surfing-at-work hysteria. Apparently the latest crisis is the time-wasting potential of Internet video sites. The funny thing about the article is that it inadvertently does a pretty good job of illustrating why blocking web-based video isn't a very good plan. One employee actually looked at clients' videos as part of his job, so he had to waste his own and the IT department's time seeking an exception every time he had a video he needed to watch in order to do his job. In an even more ridiculous case, an office had a mass shooting occur in a nearby mall, and all of the employees in the office apparently spent time complaining to the boss for permission to watch the news about it. Here, it was clear that the employees were already sitting around reading stories about the shooting, so they obviously weren't getting much work done. Yet for some reason the boss still seems proud of himself for preventing his employees from watching videos of the event. The article also cites bandwidth limitations as a reason for blocking online videos, but that seems like overkill. If upgrading bandwidth isn't an option (and bandwidth is getting cheaper every year) it seems like a much more straightforward approach would be to simply monitor total bandwidth consumption and warn the heaviest users to keep their consumption down. That would keep the network humming without treating employees like they're children.

Filed Under: employees, employers, procrastination, productivity, videos


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  1. identicon
    James, 6 Mar 2008 @ 10:07am

    Re: bandwith

    First, let's start with spelling. You need to take a second and check your spelling before you post anything - it's just good manners.

    Second, let's look at the issue. If you are the network administrator, and you have sixty people using bandwidth-intensive external websites, there are a number of things you could do to make your job a little easier.

    A) Meet with the employees in small groups to explain exactly what's going on. Show them physical examples (bring a six inch length of PVC pipe and start sticking items into it, as an idea), describe what's going on, and make it clear that what they do makes your job THAT much harder. Phrase it like that - people aren't simply going to listen to "don't do this", but they'll certainly get that what they do affects you personally, and that will sting them.
    B) You could also meet with their supervisors and let them know what's going on, if it is your goal to quash these sites entirely (I disagree with that approach but let's continue). Show them what's going on, perhaps using the physical example I showed you before, perhaps in some other fashion. Give them some options for dealing with this: more bandwidth, which would eliminate the bandwidth crunch and give you some breathing room; blocking of all non-essential outside traffic, which will increase calls to your helpdesk with users complaining (and which will not do much for executive users who will almost always find a way to squirrel around this, what with their doo-doo smelling of the finest roses and all); blocking of sites on a per-impact basis, which will make your job a living nightmare of playing cat and mouse with the latest video or audio websites.

    Just saying as you do that the economy is bad (it isn't) doesn't get you anywhere. It sounds less like a problem with the network you have and more a problem with how you are able (or not) to handle it. I'm in IT (if you haven't already guessed) and understand completely where you're coming from and what you're going through, as I'm sure a number of people have who've read this, but you need to take a step back and understand that if they don't want to fix it, you can't let it consume you. You can just suggest an approach to fix it - carrying it out is up to the money men and if they say no, I wouldn't necessarily block it - I'd just let them deal with low bandwidth and let them deal with it. Starve it out of them, basically - it works, I promise.

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