Locking down computers from accessing certain websites is a common practice.
Companies will site everything from security, liability issues and computer virus threats to bandwidth issues and productivity. In the end, companies don’t want their employees futzing around on YouTube and having to pay the tab as it is happening. I’ve always said that locking employees out of Facebook won’t make them more productive, they’ll just find something else to waste their time with (like smoking or talking on the phone). In a hyper-connected society this type of practice (which is still commonplace) is creating growing concerns. One major issue is new employee recruitment. It’s hard to recruit the best and the brightest and then have to explain to them that the tools they use to communicate (and many of these tools these younger individuals use more than talking as a form of communication) are verboten in the workplace. I have one friend whose smartphone is so locked down at work that they can’t even take pictures with it (the company is afraid of liability issues) and another senior marketer of a multi-national brand whose computer is so locked down (this includes no access to sites that use Flash) that they actually have their own laptop and USB mobile Internet stick that they use instead of the office computer.
This has become such a serious issue that some companies have created corporate policies that don’t allow employees to bring or use their own personal computers and smartphones during office hours. Some go so far as to not allow any form of personal technology on company property. Imagine having to work at a company like that. The tide is slowing turning. The Globe & Mail published an article yesterday titled, Workplace use of personal electronic devices on the rise. At first glance of the headline, I suspected that this article would be all about individuals who are sneaking their laptops and smartphones into the office and using their own devices to access online social networking sites, etc…, but it turns out that companies are now (slowly) beginning to open up and allow their employees to not only bring their own gear to work, but to use it for work-related issues.
It’s an ever-changing world and companies are not keeping pace.
From The Globe & Mail article: "Currently, only 44 per cent of employers have a formal BYO device policy and just as many ban them outright. But nearly all the employers expect to have a formal BYO policy within two years, the survey of 700 information technology officers – 100 of them in Canada – conducted by remote working applications developer Citrix Systems Inc. found. Just 6 per cent of employers said they don’t anticipate allowing employees to use their own devices at work. That’s despite the fact that many already do, whether or not there is a policy. Laptops and smart phones are the personal devices most commonly used today, the IT managers said, but tablet computers are on the rise. The survey found that employers expect a quarter of employees will bring personal tablets to work within two years, compared with an average of 8 per cent today."
It’s the iPad, stupid.
While some may be focused on how quickly the adoption is happening, I was more intrigued by the line about tablet computers and their rapid ascent. As technology gets easier, cheaper, more fun to use and connected, there’s almost little-to-nothing that companies can do to keep their employees disconnected. In fact, even thinking about a disconnected individual in a world where some regions see Internet access as a human right (for more on this: The Internet As Your Birthright) is becoming somewhat laughable. One of the biggest evolutions in the business world that happened because of connectivity is this: for the first time in our civilization, individuals are ahead of the brands when it comes to marketing. They’re more informed, more empowered and much more connected. Brands (and the businesses that are behind them) are – for the first time – playing catch-up.
Hint: employees, consumers or whatever… are all the same thing: they’re people. Companies need to get smarter.
I’m with you, Mitch. Take away my Facebook access and I’ll find another way to waste time. Plus, you lose some of the benefits. The trick is to hire good people, manage them well, trust them, etc. But that hasn’t really changed.
I laughed out loud about the “liability” issues of taking a picture with a smart phone. We put so much energy into imagining the worst case scenario–and not enough into looking at new possibilities and opportunities.
Great post Mitch. I worked for some companies that had major lock-down on any Internet usage and it was mostly due to the fact that there was a lot of sensitive information in their systems (I’m talking about insurance companies or those in the financial industry).
At my last job, when they refused to get me a mini-laptop (I traveled about once a week and was tired of having shoulder pain), I bought my own without asking for permission. And I didn’t hide the fact that it was my own personal computer.
I think banning certain sites or personal ‘gear’ is just a dumb move. The new generation won’t give a hoot and they’ll do what they feel they need to in order to keep connnected.
Great post and comments (as usual). One thing I would add to the above – it is not just the younger generation that refuses to be disconnected. I am a Baby Boomer and I refuse to be disconnected at work (Facebook, Twitter, personal email, and soon Google +). I use a mix of my own smartphone and the company desktop for access.
I am a professional and if the people I work for don’t trust me to get the work done and use resources wisely – then I am in the wrong job.
In my business the opposite would be true Mitch. If a hire did not spend every minute (they were not on the showroom floor) connected to “the net’ by their device of choice I would have to let them go.
This one of the issues that educational institutions are facing. We need to train students when to use these sites and when to focus on what is being taught in class.
Imagine being the only “Web Guy” at a small, well-connected agency — constantly figuring out how the unique behavior and possible leverage new web tools, apps and networks.
Then, one day, Facebook happens… Bad PR tells circles of business owners how this Facebook thing is killing American productivity! This story ends on weird note — now I’ve suddenly started my own business and now people at my former employer still must secretly imbibe Facebook on via personal mobile all day… when no one is looking!
They Fear, rather than embrace. No matter the story, the result is always the same — a “tech martyr” is created. Some people need this control over other’s in their lives rather than engineer better processes for adopting new technology.
(BTW, Joel — your podcast is my current favorite, one year running. Derek Sivers interview, I listened to twice.)
peace, love & barbecue,
(yeesh. excuse my bad grammar. oops.)
I totally agree with you. I’m part of an IT deparment of a company that locks everything, from IM to facebook,blogs and forums. I think that this practice limits the potential that internet bring and can benefit the own company!. You can save so much on telephone bills using IM, for example, but they don’t care…
@Mario — absolutely — I’ve noticed chat is under-used in in-house CRM non-digital services.
It’s inevitability. The faster the companies adapt to (& embrace) the new demands of tech and connectivity, the better the transition will be.
The corporation is afraid that they could be sued based off of what could be on the phone in terms of pictures or they’re worried that the employee will take pictures of something that they could be held liable for. Gotta love the lawyers.
Sensitive material can be locked in other areas on other servers, etc… with specific software and password. I think we all know that their argument doesn’t really fly.
It’s pervasive and not relegated to the younger generation at all. My point was that this is a major challenge for new recruits… and yes, I acknowledge that it’s a challenge for us old folks too 😉
You’re radical, Bill 😉 That’s the kind of crazy talk that may actually turn into real results!
…or how to make them all work together.
It sounds like the old days when nobody was allowed to have a phone.
…for both their people and their own revenue.
A couple of friends I know who work in a corporate environment sneak in their smartphones at work. To browse blocked websites they use proxy servers in accessing facebook, twitter, etc.
We are in the process at my company of moving from the old days (sites restricted/locked down, Social media frowned upon etc) to a fully integrated and empowered digital company. I am tasked with instigating this change.
It is amazing how many of the management team as well as other employees are excited with the transition and only needed someone who was focused on this task to start the ball rolling.
Exciting times ahead!
Great article, thanks Mitch. Can’t help but laugh and remember in highschool when we could access “My Space” (because that was the cool thing back then) via other websites that weren’t blocked on school grounds. If you were a teacher, you were out of luck too. My mother’s a teacher and can’t even view “You Tube” videos (which she would like to use for examples in class sometimes). I work for a start-up, and everything we use for work is our own. I enjoy the freedom, but I lack in self-discipline sometimes ;). Thanks for the great read!
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