There are two separate schools of thought emerging when it comes to personal internet use at work. Some professionals believe personal internet use is killing productivity, with employees spending hours on social media and gaming sites, that they could be working. These personal internet use critics also point out that personal email, and social media apps are often responsible for faulty malware that cause network issues that can kill productivity. There’s another group of professionals, who say personal internet use can serve as a relaxing and enjoyable break, that helps employees snap into focus afterwards. In addition to the positive mental break aspect, many new and exciting social networking tools are proving to help make certain industries more fun, exciting and efficient. There’s research supporting both arguments, so look at both sides and give it some serious thought before you attempt to make any sweeping HR policy changes in your workplace.
Harmon.ies did a study on the effects of personal internet use on productivity titled “COLLABORATION & SOCIAL TOOLS DRAIN BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY, COSTING MILLIONS IN WORK INTERRUPTIONS” According to harmon.ie “nearly 60% of all work interruptions now involve either using tools like, social networks, text messaging and IM or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste one hour a day due to all types of distractions”
Based on these findings, Harmon.ie suggests that this wasted hour each day is responsible for $10, 375 lost each year for an employee who makes $30 an hour. When you factor in viruses that attack workplace networks brought on by employees improperly using th internet at work, it becomes clear that using the internet for entertainment and social purposes can potentially have a devastating effect on productivity. Before you write off personal internet use at work entirely however, make sure you listen to the other side of the story.
Heather Huhman founder and president of Come Recommended and PR and web company, who also penned Lies, Damned Lies and Internships, has a lot to say on the matter of productivity and personal internet use. “Allowing employees to take some time away from their work by surfing the web — if that is their preference for a way to take a break — is a reasonable trade-off in exchange for superior work accomplishments,” she says. “Internet policies in the workplace should be designed to protect the company from fraudulent use of the Internet by employees, rather than to stem the creative and stimulative uses of the medium.”
Huhman isn’t alone in thinking that personal internet use can boost productivity. Many others tout social media as a great way to interact in real time between colleagues. New software being developed for professionals has opened up a lot of doors, and made some communication processes much more efficient.
Dr. Howard Luks, who works at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y as chief of knee replacements and sports medicine, uses a social-network for health care workers called Doximity. Almost entirely from his Iphone, Luks can interact with other doctors and specialists in his network. Doximity has curbed his reliance on faxes and clerical work dramatically.
“Utilizing socially rooted tools to collaborate among colleagues and experts (that) we might not otherwise have access to improves care and improves the speed and efficiency with which we can offer that care,” Luks says.
So there you have it, for every disadvantage the internet brings to the workplace, there’s an exciting new technology emerging to streamline your workplace and make it operate more efficiently. The fact that so much productivity is lost due to personal internet use, makes it obvious that we HR pros need to craft internet policies that clearly state what is and isn’t allowed. We also need to take into account the many benefits of personal internet use at work. Just like so many other things in life, creating a sound and fair internet policy for your workplace, is all about finding the right balance.