To block, what to block, or not to block; those are the questions.
The internet has always been filled with heavily distracting websites. However, the use and access of these websites have become so pervasive that even the employees themselves are self-blocking many sites in order to remain productive. In a past piece, we discussed whether to monitor your employees’ online behavior. If you decided not to monitor your team’s internet usage, selectively blocking may be a good alternative. In this piece, we’re going to look at which kind of websites to consider blocking from your employees, why, and how not to just come off as a distrustful jerk in the process.
1. The Naughty Stuff
Let’s just get this one quickly out of the way. If you’re going to be blocking any websites, it makes sense to block material that would even be censored from prime-time television. Nudity, graphic violence, overt hate-speech — unless your business requires employees to research edgy subjects on a regular basis, this kind of content has no place being viewed on company devices or over company networks. Not only are these websites potentially offensive to co-workers, but they also increase your network’s exposure to potential cybersecurity threats.
2. Online Gambling Sites
While gambling can sometimes be as innocent as a game of online poker to blow off some steam after hours, the world of online gambling can be a dark place for many gambling addicts. If employees are participating in online gambling at work, this could be a sign of an addiction. This addiction will likely not stop with a few break-period roulette games or virtual slot machines. Giving employees a break from this content can actually be very beneficial for them — not even mentioning improving worker efficiency.
3. Video Streaming Sites
According to a 2017 New York Times article, 37% of participants in one questionnaire admitted to watching Netflix at work. Even though mobile devices with their own networks have made it more difficult to keep employees from binge-watching their favorite shows on the clock, blocking video-centric websites may add friction to doing so. Websites like Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, and others are known timekillers for many employees.
4. Social Media Sites
Sites and services from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others are some of the biggest time killers on the internet. Such social media sites are frequently called “infinity pools” for the user’s ability to virtually scroll endlessly with no end in sight. In a rare turn, even employees have admitted that Facebook has kept them from adequately performing their jobs. When social media isn’t blocked in the workplace, some even pay for self-blocking services in order to curb their addictions. This places many social media platforms on the chopping block for organizations where social media is not involved in their work.
5. Certain Forum Sites
There is such a thing as helpful forums that provide solutions to help employees solve work-related problems. There is also such a thing as forum websites that are little better than chatrooms of yesteryear that contain pages and pages of tantalizing nonsense. Making a clear distinction is best left to each department, but should be seriously considered.
6. Online Shopping Websites
The internet has afforded us the luxury of thoroughly investigating every item we purchase. We can access shopping websites such as Target, Amazon, and any number of online retailers for a wide array of information. From price comparisons to user reviews, it’s all for the taking...and it takes a while to get through. Blocking these websites in the name of productivity may be a win for employers and shopaholics alike.
Tips For Not Coming Off Like a Jerk
When you finally do drop the hammer and start blocking certain websites, expect to receive a good amount of backlash for doing so — maybe not in spoken form, but emotionally. There are some ways to do this tactfully.
Offer productivity incentives.
If you begin blocking distracting websites, you’re likely to see an improvement in productivity...but maybe not in morale. Your employees will probably not like the change and see it as your lack of trust in them. In order to offset these feelings, provide positive incentives corresponding to the increased positivity you see. Some of those incentives may even be the unblocking of some sites on the condition that productivity remains steady.
Make the choice to block sites a departmental choice.
Many will admit to having a problem being distracted by internet access while on the job. Whole self-censoring companies have been established to combat this. Perhaps your employees will welcome some of these blocking instances. In order to make them a greater part of the process, allow your employees to choose which websites the department will block.