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How Do I Keep My Employees From Wasting Time On Facebook?

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  November 19, 2008  |  5 Comments

Monday’s Dilbert was awesome. It is on my hard copy Dilbert calendar. It goes something like this:

Pointy Haired Boss to Alice.

“Alice, this year you did the work of four people and made over $10 million for the company.”

“But according to our web monitoring software, you used company resources to look at a weather web site.”


I get calls frequently with clients asking about how to keep employees from wasting time on facebook, MySpace, et al. Should they define policies for Web usage or b) block or monitor usage or c) …..

Indeed some organizations that are concerned about lost worker productivity due to social networking will block access to social sites or threaten to monitor their use (which usually isn’t done because of expense and a general lack of effectiveness). This is done by some but not considered to be a good practice overall. It is treating a symptom (you can’t “block” out all the ways your employees can waste time) and can halt productive uses of the Web in general and social sites in particular.

Remember the Department of Defense blocking access to social sites.

The better or best practice is to develop and publish a Web participation guideline or policy that sets some overall guidelines on behaviors. It should give overall behavioral guidance, explain some good uses and why they are good, and explain some bad uses and why they are bad. Avoid blanket restrictions or punishment but instead have responsibility of an individual’s productivity lie with his/her manager. I interviewed with a reporter for about 30 minutes earlier this year and although we talked about many aspects of social computing, much to my chagrin, he quoted one thing, “Anthony Bradley says people worried about employee productivity loss due to social computing are bad managers.” I’m pretty sure I got the quote wrong (I couldn’t find it on the Web) but then again so did he. I have published a few pieces of research on the topic. Here they are (there is a cost to access these if not a Gartner client).

What have you experienced?

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Category: social-applications  

Tags: governance-and-policy  social-software  

Anthony J. Bradley
13 years at Gartner
30 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a Group Vice President in Gartner Research. In this role he leads global teams of analysts who research the emerging technologies and trends that are changing today's world and shaping the future. Mr. Bradley's group strives to provide technology product and service leaders (Tech CEOs, General Managers, Chief Product Officers, Practice Leads, Product Managers and Product Marketers) with unique, high-value research and indispensable advice on leveraging emerging technologies and trends to create and deliver highly successful products and services. Information technology now impacts pretty much every business function in all companies, all industries, and all geographies. Technology providers are critical to the technology and business innovation that will define the world of tomorrow. Innovation depends on technology providers. By helping them, we help the world.

Thoughts on How Do I Keep My Employees From Wasting Time On Facebook?

  1. […] of IT departments worried about people wasting time on social networking sites like Facebook. But Anthony is a much nicer guy than I am. Oh sure, I firmly believe there’s a lot of time wasting going on. But it’s […]

  2. Doug Taylor says:

    The issue isn’t about visiting Facebook, YouTube or ESPN a couple of minutes each day – the real issue is when employees abuse the privilege of using sites like these. The evidence is out there – The Pew Internet Project found that employees waste up to two hours a day on non-work related activities, the biggest one being personal Internet surfing. According to a new report by Nielsen Online, most online videos in the U.S. are watched at work between 9am and 5pm during the work week. Even the online porn industry confirms that the most popular time spent on their sites is during work hours. This isn’t just a waste of employer paid time – it robs the organization of bandwidth, causes IT headaches due to downloaded malware and reduced storage capacity and opens up organizations to legal issues such as sexual harassment, illegal media downloads and potentially embarrassing public relations nightmares such as sexual predators and child porn arrests. According to a survey conducted by SpectorSoft of its customers who use that company’s Spector 360 PC and Internet monitoring software – 96% said the software confirmed their original suspicions. 89% of the companies surveyed found more abuse than they expected, with 28% finding “far more” abuse.

  3. Anthony Bradley says:

    You bring up some important points. It isn’t about wasting time on the internet. People will waste time whether it is on the phone, on the internet, at another employees cube or whatever. Employees wasting time is a management NOT a technology issue. I certainly hope you would not advocate restricting internet access because some employees may use it to waste time. Inappropriate use of the internet is another issue. This is a governance challenge and I have put out a series of research on establishing Web participation policy and guidelines. Though few do, all organizations should have a Web participation governance strategy and associated guidelines to send a clear message on appropriate and inappropriate usage. Bandwidth is yet another issue. This is a resource issue. Assuming that management practices are in place to stave off wasted employee time and governance is also in place to cover inappropriate use then what remains is legitimate use (with a little unaviodable illegitimate use mixed in). Under this assumption then the answer to the bandwidth issue is …. get more bandwidth. These are all surmountable challenges. What is the alternative, shutting off internet access? Good luck competing in the Web 2.0 world with that approach. Every new technology comes with adoption challenges. Here is an article comparing the governments approach to restricting internet access with the past attitudes towards restricting use of the telephone

  4. Kate Miller says:

    Employees waste time online because they can. As simple as that.
    It is tempting, it is one click away.

    Every business should have Internet Usage Policy in place and monitoring Software. There is no need to block access or restrict anything if there is a proper Corporate Internet Usage Police in place.

    Every employer must have a way to track Internet usage and get back to the individuals who abuse it.

    Our Internet filter Integard Professional was specifically developed for small to medium businesses. Many business owners say they should have installed it earlier. The extent of inappropriate Internet usage was shocking, according to many.

    Kate Miller
    Integard – Better Safe than Sorry

  5. Anthony Bradley says:

    Why stop there Kate. Let’s tap their phones to make sure they are not making personal calls (the phone is just a quick dial-tone away). Also, we should consider video cameras to make sure they aren’t wasting time talking to coworkers (they are just one cubical away).

    All due respect to your technology (I’m sure it is great technology), but, IMO, this is not a technology problem. This is a plain old management issue. You simply can’t automate good employee behavior.

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