Employers’ dilemma in the digital world | Sunday Observer

Employers’ dilemma in the digital world

The employer has to make it clear that spending time online during work  hours for activities not related to the job description is not tolerated
The employer has to make it clear that spending time online during work hours for activities not related to the job description is not tolerated

There is absolutely no doubt that connectivity is a must to work and live in the modern society. Most formal jobs today require a computer with internet access and at home, internet usage has become increasingly popular mainly in the urban and sub urban areas and rapidly penetrates into rural areas across the country.

The social networking sites, such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Friendster and many others, after one is acclimated to the community, become one’s cyber home; a home away from home if you will.

Ones affinity for the sites becomes evident by the fact that if your computer is down for a couple of days, or you can’t log in for a few days, for whatever reason, you actually miss the interaction of your favourite social networking site. You miss the feeling of community that these sites offer – no doubt.

But like in any other good thing, this also comes with numerous disadvantages particularly in the work environment. Productivity decreases as a result of employees checking their social network accounts, and some of them are even playing games online – who pays for all of these? Are you aware of the cost of this habit by the employees? How do you deal with it; stricter policy compliance or awareness - or both?

Employee’s time has become increasingly expensive in every single industry and more so in the labour intensive service industries. Employees should be very clear that excessive personal Internet use at work is no more acceptable than spending time on personal phone calls.

Self discipline

Of course, you may not be able to restrict access to some selected programs only; however there are so many alternatives that simply override your restrictions. Also, employees can be monitored, but this seems to be an extreme situation.

You might also think about blocking internet access entirely but you should know that this is not a good solution. Sometimes your employees have to do research online about the projects they are working on or as a part of sales development process. It’s a big dilemma for the employer.

What is really important is awareness. The employer has to make it clear that spending time online during work hours for activities not related to the job description is not tolerated because it affects performance of the company. Honesty, integrity and loyalty to the organisation are natural attributes that would ensure sanity more than the imposition of technical barriers.

An employee doing social networking to unwind after a long leg of challenging work can be tolerated to some extent as the person has to unwind a little and who knows maybe new ideas will pop up - the human mind works in mysterious ways and strange things have happened. Some employees, such as programmers or designers, feel the need for relaxing and read and see things that are not strictly related to their work to unwind.

Work load

Correct assessment of the work load an employee can handle and monitoring productivity against that would give you an idea how much time may be available for an employee to engage in non-work related browsing. Setting optimistic targets that will use up the entire working hours with time to take breaks as needed will discourage the people from spending time on social networks.

If the targets are met, then it doesn’t really matter whether an employee is logging on to Face book or not. If they are not being met, then this is a clear issue of incompetence or lack of commitment on the part of the employee which needs to be addressed.

If employees would like to use their time off the clock to ‘tweet’ or ‘update a status’, then they are free to do so. But they could also go have a snack, make a phone call home or get a haircut. It really doesn’t matter. Remember, companies figured out policies around personal phone calls back in the day, and it was done without all the hand-wringing and head scratching. This is no different. Clear policy and guidelines to use social networks will help maintain productivity. But more importantly, employee honesty, integrity and loyalty are primary demands to overcome this issue for the good of both parties. 

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