Freedom is something many take for granted, especially when it comes to the Internet. We tend to think that countries that block certain sites on the Internet, like China and their 'great firewall' are infringing on basic rights. While blocking sites and access might seem pernicious, there is some benefit that comes from it, especially for companies; a decreased security risk and better control. Does your company allow employees unrestricted Internet access? If so there might be some issues that could arise from this.
Here's four potentially negative outcomes that can result from unrestricted Internet access.
Loss of productivity We live in a world where we are reliant on the Internet and the once clear line between work and life has blurred into more or less the same thing. When we're at work, it's often hard to resist the temptation of checking our email, personal Facebook accounts, or even the news. When we do this, we aren't focusing on work which could mean we are less productive as a result.
Legal liability The potential legal liabilities from improper use of the Internet while at work could lead to some serious legal implications. For example, over 27% of Fortune 500 companies have been accused of sexual harassment stemming from inappropriate emails sent by employees. To go one step further, in the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that companies can be held liable for their employees forwarding offensive or illegal material.
Reputation damage There are numerous cases where an employee has received an email and forwarded it to several other employees, who then in turn forward it on until it reaches someone who is unintentionally offended. It's made worse when this email is plastered with company branding and from a work email address. In serious cases word can leak to the media and the company’s reputation takes a serious hit.
Increased bandwidth consumption Websites like YouTube, or those with some sort of streaming media, can be bandwidth intensive. With services like these, you'll notice that anything that relies on an Internet connection runs slower. This alone will increase costs, especially if you rely on the Internet and need to purchase more than one connection to keep speeds where they should be.
With these four outcomes, it seems like the answer might be obvious: you should limit or block non-essential websites. Be warned however, younger generations entering the workforce have come to rely on and expect openness, and freedom of the Internet. Watch your typical Gen Y work, and they will use the Internet both for work and relaxation. Draconian blocking of sites could in fact bring about an even larger decrease in productivity in these Internet-hungry employees, as they either focus on finding ways to circumvent the block instead of working, or simply leave the company.
So, what is the best solution? The answer is one many companies have struggled with. The truth is, it's different for every company, but the one thing productive companies have in common is a policy on Internet use, combined with taking adequate steps in terms of security. Many tech companies allow free and open access to sites like Facebook in the belief that even if used for personal measures, the employee is spreading the word about the company. If you're not an expert in this, or would like some guidance, we are happy to help, so please get in touch.