4 Myths about blocking Internet access in the enterprise

Some enterprises think that blocking Internet access for their employees is the solution to many of their issues. They think that productivity will be increased, costs can be saved, less security and legal issues will occur and, since the rise of Web2.0 and social media in particular: less damage to their reputation can be done. So if you are ever confronted with one of these four reasons for blocking the Internet access for your employees (or if somebody is using this argument to explain to you why your access to the Internet is blocked), you will know the answer.

Blocking will increase the productivity of the employee

This argument is based on the fact that if an employee is on Facebook or Twitter, he is not working, but babbling and browsing during the expensive hours of the enterprise. Of course that is true, however it isn’t the complete story. Facebook and Twitter are not time wasters every time these tools are used, they can be used effectively to gather information, but they also are more effective in catching up friends and family, most often more effective than a phone call that will take an hour. The phone call takes more time than just a tweet, or just a message on Facebook. People will not stop doing non-work things during work hours if the enterprise blocks the Internet access, they will probably still do it, but less effectively since one of the most effective tools was blocked. Plus instead of catching up with colleagues online, they will have to find another way: more coffee breaks, more chit chat in the office and longer lunches could be results of that. Not blocking Internet access can even help your employees to get a better work-life balance, since they can do certain things during work hours, which by blocking Internet access has to be done outside office hours.

If employees are spending 10 hours a day on Facebook during office hours, do not block, but ask why they are online so much, and if it helps them in getting their work done. Just simple talk with employees, instead of blocking access. They might give you the brightest ideas in years on how you can utilize the Internet in a way to generate business. And if they are being unproductive, you can have a talk about and how to change that, blocking will not instantly change somebodies attitude.

We will save a lot of money since our employees are wasting the bandwidth

Watching YouTube videos, surfing the web on non related websites are most often bandwidth wasters. However visiting ‘useful’ (whatever that definition might be) sites during work hours might be too. If something doesn’t help you in task-completion it is a waste. Let’s have a closer look at YouTube: is it a waste, are the instruction and training videos on  YouTube a waste, or do they help sombody in completing his work? Is an hour spend on Google less waste than five minutes on Facebook for asking a work related question and receiving answers to that question? Besides that, bandwith is getting cheaper every year and broadband is widely available and is also declining in price.

Blocking will save you bandwidth, however will it solve the real problem (if there is any problem at all)?. The real solution? Talk with your employees, ask what they do online and why they spend hours on YouTube or other sites, they might be working more efficient than you were aware off in the first place. They might be even doing customer service on different platforms, or providing customers with instruction videos for your products.

No issues with downloaded inappropriate content / malware

If this is a real worry, than there are more issues than just possible mis-use of an Internet connection, it is a lack of trust in your employees.  However if you are afraid of this, please note that there is still something such as USB sticks which can help your employees to distribute the inappropriate content or accidentally install malware. Or, if you should also block external devices and USB sticks, please note that not all inappropriate is digital, it seems that there are certain magazines or movies that you might prefer not to have in the office, or even not at all in the world.

Also closing your Internet connection only solves the download issue, employees can still distribute inappropriate content or malware. However, you could also put some effort in it and talk with your employees what one should and shouldn’t do in the office with the Internet connection.

Our reputation is at risk if our employees are online

If your reputation is on the line by employee behavior, don’t be to surprised, but employees also have an Internet connection at home. People still can leak confidential information, provide misinformation, spread rumors, or damage the image of the company in any other way. However why would they? If you are afraid that ‘bad things may happen’, again: talk with your employees, explain on how you think they should behave online, however, listen to them on what they think is correct online behavior.

Create a set of guidelines, together with your employees, on how you should behave online and how Internet access should be used. Do not make it a list which just sums up all things that are forbidden, since then you’ll be waiting till somebody finds the next work around which is not on your list. Make clear what is preferred behavior and discuss this with your employees and let your employees provide input (or even better: let them create the guidelines). It is really simple: blocking is not a long term (nor a short term) solution for the issues that are often mentioned. If employee behavior is a real issue with regards to Internet access, discuss the behavior, since the attitude is a problem, not the Internet connection.

You only block Internet access when you are afraid to talk with your employees about their behavior. Preventing behavior does not solve your problems, it will prevent them just for a short period of time.