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The Almighty Buck

Negative Effects of Workplace Net Monitoring 396

Masem writes " reports that while many corporations have monitoring tools and restrictions on Internet usages for non-work related activities, these can have negative effects on the productivity of the workplace. The report notes that people have to take days off from work to deal with personal business that could have been done in a few minutes or hours from a work net connection, and that employee morale is generally down when net controls are in place." A related study suggests employees spend more time doing work from home than playing at work.
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Negative Effects of Workplace Net Monitoring

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  • Admit it! (Score:4, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:30PM (#5252039) Journal
    You're commenting on this AT WORK.
    • Re:Admit it! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CharlieO ( 572028 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:36PM (#5252107)
      Yes but as I'm at work OUTSIDE OF THE HOURS I'M PAID FOR I figure fairs fair.
      • Re:Admit it! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Milo Fungus ( 232863 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:45PM (#5252192)

        Yeah, but you're still using company bandwidth. I don't write my Slashdotting hours on my timecard, but I'm still consuming company property for personal use. I have mixed feelings about the ethics of Slashdotting on work computers. I work in tech, so in a way I'm just keeping on top of recent developments. I also work for a university that I attend as a student, so really the bandwidth is mine to use as a student if not as an employee. But these are questions we should consider when we catch ourselves mindlessly reloading Slashdot ten times/hour.

        • Re:Admit it! (Score:5, Informative)

          by onepoint ( 301486 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:57PM (#5252301) Homepage Journal
          I own a tiny shop, I require everyone to read slashdot 3 times a day for 20 minutes each. ( 1 hour total ).

          Why, real simple, knowledge equals growth. I spend 2 years lurking, just learning. I got to say slashdot gives the best education for every stupid line you write.

          Plus the shared knowledge of the community gives me the edge up on others. So, yes, slashdot should be a required reading at all firms that are in the tech field.

        • Re:Admit it! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Joe U ( 443617 )
          It's not that you are using their resources, it's that they are also using your personal resources as well.

          Do you submit a bill to your company for your home bandwidth charges when you check your work email at home or when you connect in remotely on your day off? Even if you charge by the hour, what about your computer costs? Electric? Heat and A/C?
        • Re:Admit it! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Christianfreak ( 100697 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:34PM (#5252595) Homepage Journal
          So is it also unethical to take time to go to the restroom or get a drink of water?

          Seriously most companies have broadband connections, how much bandwidth are you really using?

          I agree it can become a problem if that is all you are doing, but how can an employer complain if I get my work done in a timely manner and read up alittle on technology, news, whatever on the side? Arguably it would take longer to do my work if I don't get breaks and I would certainly be much less happy if I couldn't take that time and surf a bit.
          • Re:Admit it! (Score:3, Interesting)

            You're right, your IM and slashdot reading and occasional song download isn't taking that much bandwidth. it's everyone's at your location that takes the bandwidth.

            My office has a T1, and between the hours of 9 and 5, my averate throughput from ibiblio is 12kps. I could do better with a 28.8 modem. as soon as everyone goes home, i can get 160kps. -- and we've already blocked all the popular p2p ports.
        • Re:Admit it! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by stefanlasiewski ( 63134 ) <slashdot@s[ ] ['tef' in gap]> on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:43PM (#5252654) Homepage Journal
          What is this "timecard" that you speak of?

          Salary = No hours, no overtime. Just get the work done.

          I get paid the same if I work a 30 hour week or a 70 hour week. If it's the latter, you'll be damn sure that I will be taking many breaks.
          • Re:Admit it! (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mindstrm ( 20013 )
            Except that in many places, salary ends up meaning "We don't have to pay you more when you work overtime, even if state law requires it, cause you'll anger us and lose your job, and you have to be here 50 hours a week ANYWAY, becuase that's part of doing your job."

          • Re:Admit it! (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
            In the market place today, why would anyone in the IT field work as a direct employee? There is NO such thing as company loyalty to the employee, nor job security. A W2 employee in many cases these days will be let go just as fast as a 1099 or contractor with an "S" corporation. I figure, hey, if the job security is the same, why not work as an indie. contractor...make MUCH more money...and you don't get bored with the same old job forever. Benefits aren't that much to pay for....for a 40 yr old male...medical is only like $3K annually...etc. Like I said...I figure if you're going to have the same job security (none) you might as well make the big $$'s and have fun with more 'salary' for me....
        • by rutledjw ( 447990 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:17PM (#5253453) Homepage
          I don't write my Slashdotting hours

          I do, it's under "research".

      • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:52PM (#5252254) Homepage Journal
        Amen, I know I put my 40 hours in by wednesday. Let me have my 10 minutes to read Slashdot.
    • Yeah, I find it hard to get too worked up on this subject given that I ought to be working right now...

      On a related subject, the BBC reports [] that the new email filtering system at the House of Commons is blocking mail containing Welsh, apparently mistaking benign Welsh content for English obscenities.

    • Re:Admit it! (Score:3, Informative)

      by macdaddy357 ( 582412 )
      Yes, I am. I am a computer technician waiting for diagnostic tests to complete. During these down times I do not just sit here, I read Slashdot, Fark, F'edCompany, and general news sites to pass the time. I need to occupy myself to maintain my sanity. If they took away my net access, and I had to just sit and twiddle my thumbs during these times, I would lose my mind! I could not do this job. I use a personal firewall and privacy software to get away with this, and I naturally minimize or close Mozilla if a boss comes near my bench. Don't we all?
  • Well, duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wayward_son ( 146338 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:32PM (#5252050)
    Another pointy haired boss policy. Treating professionals like children does lead to decreased productivity.
  • by puzzled ( 12525 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:33PM (#5252065) Journal

    I was the porno cop at a 150 employee telecom company a few years ago. Highly paid programmers with tight deadlines turned out to have ... other interests and not much real work. An executive who had netted the company several sexual harrasment suits slid through on his corporate position and a difficult to replace provisioning guy continued to

    At the end of the day, two people left before the ax swung, the sexual harrasment was institutional and only slightly blunted ... but everyone and I mean every last person ... hated me with a passion for being the messenger.

    3% - 5% in any company are going to have some sort of problem and it ought to be dealt with on a performance basis rather than using a squid enforced police state.

    • by macrom ( 537566 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:38PM (#5252130) Homepage
      rather than using a squid enforced police state

      Man, that is harsh, using tentacled sea creatures to discipline employees. Throwing squid into my cube everytime I hit a porn site^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HSlashdot would get me to stop. Hell, any raw fruits de mer would succeed.

      Now if you're employees like calamari, well, you're screwed.
    • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:47PM (#5252206) Homepage Journal
      it ought to be dealt with on a performance basis rather than using a squid enforced police state.

      I, for one, welcome our calamari overlords.

    • by NetFu ( 155538 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:23PM (#5252503) Homepage Journal
      The only way I can respond to this post is, "Well, DUH!" I've worked for a 150 person company for 12 years as the I.T. Director, so we've always joked that my unwritten title has been "Director of Covert I.T. Operations".

      The bottom line is that, yes, this should be dealt with on a performance basis, but what do you do when you realize that an employee is underperforming? Do you just give them a warning that they are not performing at the level you expect them to? Or, do you turn to these tools for that individual to prove that they are wasting huge amounts of company time (at least to the manager, if not to the HR department and the employee himself)?

      That's what we have always done and it has generally been effective without causing ill-will from employees. If you hire someone to do a job, and they are not doing that job, then you need to somehow show why if you intend to fire them (at least here in California, I don't know if you can just fire people for no reason in other states) or even if you just want them to do a better job. Also, there is NO employee I've ever met who likes the extra workload because they have to work with someone they know is screwing off while they are working hard.

      Nobody gets pissed off when you fire jerks who refuse to do their work. Believe me, there are plenty of people out there who seriously think it's OK to talk on the phone ALL DAY (I'm talking 4-8 hours non-stop) while they work, and screwing off on the internet in IM, porno sites, Hotmail, etc. is no different. There will always be people who will abuse their freedoms at work and we have to use tools case-by-case to weed them out.

      Aside from people who can't get their jobs done, we have always given employees a lot of leeway on doing personal things during company time. Nobody cares that I'm posting this right now, and I don't care if other employees do things like this either, as long as they get their jobs done! Performance has to be king to keep everybody happy!
  • Easy bypass... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:33PM (#5252069) Journal
    When we get a blocked site, we just plug in an 802.11x card and surf through one of the TWO DOZEN unsecured access points in range... Or VNC home...
    • Re:Easy bypass... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BrookHarty ( 9119 )
      Same thing here, we need SSH and FTP out. So, just ssh tunnel into your home unix box, and surf from there. Also for some unknown reason, Windows Remote Desktop is allowed. So we can also use our windows boxen from home to surf.

      And if all else fails, we have http-tunnel, or even a gprs aircard.
  • by Corrupt System ( 636550 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:34PM (#5252075)
    Remember, if you comment on this from work you're stealing from your employer. I always take days off to read Slashdot.
    • You forgot an even greater crime:

      You are a TERRORIST if you bypass your employer's Internet filtering/monitoring software through SSH/VNC/RDP.

      Real Americans have nothing to hide.

    • Remember, if you comment on this from work you're stealing from your employer. I always take days off to read Slashdot.

      Really, for shame. You know better than this.

      You should be using up sick days to read Slashdot.
  • Absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:34PM (#5252080) Journal
    I think especially as projects get piled on people, the ability to take a break and escape from your projects is of paramount importance. An Internet connection is the water cooler of the future, so to speak.
    • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:45PM (#5252184) Journal
      An Internet connection is the water cooler of the future, so to speak.

      In other news, HydroSequre (NAWSDOC:HSQ) announced today groundbreaking new water-cooler monitoring technology. The system, called "Chiller", incorporates microphones, video cameras, and electrically-charged floor plates to ensure that the water cooler is not a source of productivity loss.

      "Employers provide water to employees to meet critical business-related hydration needs, not as a source of titillation and gossip-mongering. Corporations can't afford to subsidize the time-wasting chit-chat about last night's hockey game or who's schtupping whom in HR." commented Lloyd Getalife, Executive VP of Productivity Marketing.

      Note to the humor-impaired: It's a joke. Successful or not, it's supposed to be funny. And God forbid if I should accidentally stomp on someone's trademark, securities listing, or business plan. In that case, it's accidental parody and protected by what little is left of fair use doctrine.

    • Not just that, but, let's face it, we DO need to keep up-to-date in this field, and on of the best ways is still to network w. other humans.

      Chalk up your slashdot time to personal development/research/etc.

      After all, you must have come up w. at least ONE useful hint/idea/solution to a problem while reading the posts here :-)

      It's certainly better than what's on the office radio right now (talk radio re: Michael Jackson - ugh!)

  • My bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by whitelabrat ( 469237 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:35PM (#5252095)
    ...whoops! I guess I should stop monitoring my corporate network. :)
  • by Chocolate Teapot ( 639869 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:35PM (#5252096) Journal
    ...and he fired me for reading /. on company time. The link is wrong BTW.
  • Take days off? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mark Pitman ( 1610 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:35PM (#5252097) Homepage
    ...people have to take days off from work to deal with personal business that could have been done in a few minutes or hours from a work net connection...

    If you can do it on the web from work in a few minutes, why would you need to take a day off to do it from home? The web is open 24 hours! Take a few minutes at home to get it done in the evening instead of taking the day off. If you don't have an Internet connection at home, go to the library. That's just ridiculous.

    • Re:Take days off? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jwbozzy ( 519130 )

      I agree totally. I do occasionally take days off for personal business, but that is for things like car maintenance and the like, where I could not possibly be at work. Things like online banking, online bill pay, and auctions are not an excuse to take a day off.

      However it is a horrendously bad idea to block access to things that are not directly inappropriate, like porn and online casinos. I highly doubt you are losing more than 10 - 20 minutes a day on this, and how much time is lost in impromptu meetings in hallways, at watercoolers, etc or long lunches? I would say that the costs at my old company(where I had to implement this) were far higher than the benefits of a few minutes of time lost.

    • Well, there's this new invention called TIME ZONES. Lets say I live in California, and I need to contact a company in New York about something before the close of the business day there. Please explain to me how I'm supposed to do that after *MY* business day when it's 8:00 on the East coast, but it's only 5:00 to me (if you don't factor in drive time).
    • Maybe they also talk about use of email or phone and maybe getting in touch with someone specific during normal office hours. I wont stay online 24 hours for your petty sake.
  • SSH Tunnel (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yuan-Lung ( 582630 )
    I sometimes do visit "questionable" sites from work. When I am doing that, I just SSH tunnel home and proxy from there.

    • Re:SSH Tunnel (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CharlieO ( 572028 )
      But that does rather rely on you being able to SSH tunnel out - frankly rather abvious at the firewall if you are the only one doing it.

      "Hmmm, Mike's set up an SSH tunnel between his desktop and an IP address in the range of an ISP - I wonder what *valid* reason he's doing that for..."
      • Re:SSH Tunnel (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vrone ( 135073 )
        Have you ever set up an SSH tunnel? It's just a regular SSH connection. In other words, they really can't tell the difference between a tunnel and a normal connection. The SSH client just listens to the loopback interface on a port that the user chooses, then sends it through to the other side. In other words, your point is without merit unless he works somewhere where *using* SSH would set off bells.
  • Work at work (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MCMLXXVI ( 601095 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:35PM (#5252101)
    Why does everyone complain when they are expect to actually do work at work. They are not paying you to keep the seat warm.

    On another point I say two can play at that game. You want me to work every second I am at work that's fine. But when that clock hits 5:00 I drop everything and leave.
    • Many reasons.

      1) People are lazy.
      2) People feel they owe their employer nothing, and have no loyalty. (perhaps partly justified)
      3) The modern work ethic seems to be show up in the morning, go home in the late afternoon, and make sure your work all gets done. Whether you do that at work or at home, and when you show up or go home (within reason) seems to be less and less concrete.

      If I'm given a three hour job at 4:00 that MUST be done today, and am not getting overtime for it, then be damed if I make sure my coffee breaks don't go over 15 minutes. Alternatively, if I'm on a punch clock and my workday is over at 5:00 then I'm going to work my ass off until that very moment.

      I think ultimately the workplace has become more relaxed, which gives slackers and whiners more room to complain without getting their lazy asses fired. The rest of us will just enjoy having more freedom in how we get our work done. (and work more effectively for it)
    • Re:Work at work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MisterFancypants ( 615129 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:51PM (#5252247)
      Why does everyone complain when they are expect to actually do work at work. They are not paying you to keep the seat warm.

      In general people cannot properly focus for more than a few hours on one issue without taking a break. If people are going to take breaks anyway why not let them access the net (of course, I don't think they should be accessing porn sites and such from work, but why not Slashdot, etc)?

      Of course at this point some programmers will chime in about how they can focus on their code for 12 hours... Save it for someone else. In my experience people who do that tend to write substandard code, because usually the best way to solve a thorny coding issue is to STEP AWAY from the computer (or switch away from the code editor anyway) for a while and let your mind think of other things while it processes the problem. Sitting there beating the problem over the head with more and more brute-force code is not the way to solve it.

      • Re:Work at work (Score:5, Insightful)

        by t0rnt0pieces ( 594277 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:15PM (#5252443)
        In general people cannot properly focus for more than a few hours on one issue without taking a break... ..usually the best way to solve a thorny coding issue is to STEP AWAY from the computer (or switch away from the code editor anyway) for a while and let your mind think of other things while it processes the problem...

        I agree with everything you said. It's just impossible to focus on work for 8 hours straight, especially one that requires a lot of concentration, like programming. I've found that when I'm coding a difficult problem, I have to step away from the computer for a while and just sit and think about it. Sure, I could come up with some shitty hack on the fly, but in order to do the job right you need breaks every now and then. I guess pr0n should be forbidden at work, but I don't see what's wrong with visiting "family" websites like /. ;-) But even if they have a rule against pr0n, I still don't think it's a good idea to have big brother looking over everyone's shoulders. Employees should be entitled to a little bit of privacy, even at work. One of the biggest complaints about my current employer is that they treat everyone like retarded children. They have strict rules about using the net. Basically, if you're caught on the internet you get fired. Of course, everyone who works there is miserable. It would probably do wonders for workplace morale if employers started showing a little more trust in their workers instead of using threats to keep them in line. I cringe every time a manager says "Oh by the way, you're not allowed to do ____, that's a terminable offense." And it doesn't help when then openly violate their own rules all the time.
    • Re:Work at work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by urbazewski ( 554143 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:18PM (#5252467) Homepage Journal
      "Work" turns out to be a surprisingly vague concept, even for people in traditional factory jobs. One of the most successful, and hardest to organize and implement, industrial actions is "work-to-rule", where each worker follows every rule to the letter and refuses to do things that are not specifically "their job." This type of action lowers productivity dramatically, emphasizing that workplaces depend critically on voluntary cooperation.

      The economist George Akerlof modeled the cooperative aspects of the labor market formally in a paper called "Labor Contracts as Partial Gift Exchange" ( Quarterly Journal of EconomicsVol. 97, No. 4, pp. 543-569).

      I find the view that reading /. or making phone calls at work is "stealing" to be naive and simplistic --- so much depends on subtle (or not so subtle) levels of effort that cannot be measured or coerced. The poster's comments that "two can play at that game. You want me to work every second I am at work that's fine. But when that clock hits 5:00 I drop everything and leave." illustrate this perfectly.

      blog-O-rama []

    • Re:Work at work (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GlassHeart ( 579618 )
      Why does everyone complain when they are expect to actually do work at work.

      There's a difference between an employee whining about having to work 8 hours a day, and a business realizing that regular breaks actually improve productivity. This is especially true for humans in creative professions. Taking a stroll (or even Slashdot) can often get you a solution faster than staring at the problem.

      The second point is that people remember to do things when they remember. Let's say you suddenly remembered that you need to order a gift for someone. You can either take a few minutes to get it over with, or try to remember it for the rest of the day. Which one is likely to distract you from work more?

      On another point I say two can play at that game. You want me to work every second I am at work that's fine. But when that clock hits 5:00 I drop everything and leave.

      Exactly. The question is not which policies employees dislike, but which policies actually improve productivity.

  • by ReidMaynard ( 161608 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:35PM (#5252103) Homepage
    and was in charge of the "web tracking database". Although we blocked porn (about 30k sites) you can never get them all. Part of my duty was to give monthly lists of top porn abusers.

    I felt like I was peeping, looking at people's web habbits. It was truly the low point of my job. However, the execs (who were given access) thought it was a hoot, and (rumour has it) spent hours snikering over this stuff.

    I just noticed none of this is really "on topic"... oh well ...
    • I felt like I was peeping, looking at people's web habbits.

      As the designated netcop for my company, I find it is a good way to get interesting leads to enjoy at home. Plus, no one would think twice about my looking at those sites at work, as "I had to see what kind of a site it was..."

      Perspective my friend, Perspective!

    • by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:58PM (#5252767)
      Every week, the proxy logs were automatically collated and sorted by userid[1] and bandwidth used, then posted to a web site. All completely automatically. It took about 30mins to set up. The logs linked from the internal corporate web site so everyone in the company can see them and all the employees (several tens of thousands) were informed that their web viewing habits would be published.

      There was a couple of porn sites and some *serious* bandwidth hogs the first few weeks, but nothing since. I can't imagine a reason to hire people specifically to do this kind of crap, sounds like someone has too much money.

      [1] You have to login to the gateway proxies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:37PM (#5252122)
    I work at Intel, and actually enforce this policy. It's a great one! The company lands hard on people who are the subject of complaints (e.g., for visiting racist, "adult", or illegal (warez, etc.) sites).

    Zero monitoring is done for "performance management"--all that is handled through an employee's management chain. The expectation is that employees get all their work done. If they deliver good work on time, who CARES how much they surf? We treat our employees like adults, and find that the vast majority of them are able to manage their time properly.

    Senior management long ago decided to embrace the Internet economy--how hypocritical would it be for Intel to forbid our employees from participating on company time and Internet connectivity?

    I eBay online, bank online, read news (and /. too) online, and yes, I'm posting from work. It's a wonderful policy, "reasonable personal use." If in doubt, ask your manager: it's as simple as that.

    • My last job was like that, but it was a small company. They only cared that the work got done on time, and what you did between the assigning of the work and the turning in of the work was immaterial.

      Plus, they also encouraged gaming breaks once a day as stress relief, about a half hour.

      That was the most productive company I've worked in, both personally and as a whole.
  • by I_am_Rambi ( 536614 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:39PM (#5252136) Homepage
    That can make a difference. If a company is monitoring and blocks certain web sites, say p0rn, they are rightly to do so. I can not see how that can have a negative impact on a workplace. I can also understand if a company wants to block activity of music share programs, I believe, they are rightly to do so. You are not paying for the bandwidth, they are.

    I can also see that if a technology company (for example) blocks sites like slashdot (for example), that could possible be harmful. There seems to be a fine line of the control that is put into place and the up-keep of morale.

    There is also a thing call respect and honesty. Yes, somethings can be done faster while at work without net monitoring, but is the company really getting what they are paying for? (that is the worker, and the product s/he produces)

    The question is, "Is what I am doing honest towards the company or not?"
    • 'Just ask yourself the question..... "Is This Good For The Company"?' [Points to teal and pink banner....]

      Good luck with the layoffs Bob!
    • Yeah, I've seen people at work checking personal email, stock and sports scores and the news. This is probably more helpful than hurtful. Here the line is drawn to exclude anything that uses significant bandwidth, anything that opens the company network up to the outside, and anything that is illegal or could get the company sued. Oh yeah, you still have to get your job done too. I've also seen employees download literally gigs of music and video(until they were caught), people spending loads of time on instant messenger, 10 Meg video joke files getting forwarded to hundreds of people. Geez, people, use some common sense.
    • hat can make a difference. If a company is monitoring and blocks certain web sites, say p0rn, they are rightly to do so. I can not see how that can have a negative impact on a workplace. I can also understand if a company wants to block activity of music share programs, I believe, they are rightly to do so. You are not paying for the bandwidth, they are.

      Hey, I admit it, I do a ton of stuff online from work: banking, shopping, reading news sites. Doing "errands" online keeps me here instead of going out to do them, which people do. Reading news is no different than reading the paper on a break, which people do. So I check Slashdot occasionally. I don't go outside every 30 minutes to have a 10 minute cigarette either.

      I don't need to "surf", I haven't really randomly done that for about 5 years. I use the net as a tool. I don't look at pr0n at work either. They do have filters set up to block questionable pages. But the problem is that they simply subscribe to a service that gives them a list of sites to block. One guy I know was looking into buying furniture or something, and a major department store's website was blocked. Some legit tech sites are blocked too, I have tried to go there to read some articles. Things like are not blocked, but The Onion is. Which one is a bigger waste of time/bandwidth?

      The problem with filtering is that it is that it isn't perfect. If I had full access, I wouldn't violate company policy simply because I value my job. Too bad that this doesn't apply to everyone.

    • No normal human can be productive for 8+ hours a day for days on end. Sorry, just not happening. People need to kick back every once and awhile and relax. To try and think that you can regulate things to the point where employees will be FORCED to do maximum work the whole day is stupid. If you take away any and all fun they'll eventually just get to the point of staring at the wall. You vertianly don't want people screwing off all the time and not doing what they are getting paid for BUT if you don't let them have some release, your overall productivity and morale will suffer.
  • well, duh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilStein ( 414640 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:42PM (#5252163)
    Take a look around and see how many office mates make personal phone calls from work.
    I've worked with people that made 5-10 personal calls every single day.
    Now, take a look at how many services have moved over to the web. Airline reservations, hotel bookings, banking and much more can be done over the web.

    I think that companies are really making too big of a deal out of "lost production because of internet usage."

    Place the blame where it should be placed - on the employee whos productivity suffers.
    • Re:well, duh.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:13PM (#5252433)
      Of course they are making too big a deal out of it. People need to goof off during the work day from time to time. Just how it goes. As a highschool summer job, I once worked as a surveyor's assisstant. This was a job that was not done in an office. It was just you and the crew chief going to sites and doing work. You had no computer (well other than the digital measurement unit, but you can't exctally play games with that), generally didn't know anyone else on the site and so on. So did that mean that we were little non-stop working machines? No, we would talk, talk to other crews on the radio, take breaks to just sit down and so on. We did good work and got our job done, but to do that we needed a release every so often.

      No matter what the work environment, people aren't going to be maximally productive for all 8 hours. Employers just need to come to terms with that.
  • Hey Mr Boss - if you install this software to spy on us, our productivity will go down.

    It will?

    Er, yeah - this report says so.

    Hmmm... Well, on the basis of it, you'd better continue peer-to-peer filesharing and pr0n surfing then...
  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:44PM (#5252180) Homepage

    As a manager I don't care if my employees surf the web at work. When I assign them a task I have a good idea how long it should take. If Joe Blow always takes longer than expected, I'll fire him, web surfing or not. If Jane Bleep routinely finishes her work ahead of time, I'll make sure she gets the biggest raise, come evaluation time, plus I'll praise her work in the next team meeting, and little could I care if she reads /. from work.

    • You hiring? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Unknown Poltroon ( 31628 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:51PM (#5252248)
      I mean, after you fire joe blow.
    • Absolutely.

      As the owner of a small programming firm I take the same attitude. Manage by objective. Deal with problem employees as exceptions and not the rule. And deal with problems swiftly - the other employees know when a co-worker is f*cking the dog and they resent it. After a while they'll begin to wonder why they're working so hard.

      We carry this a little further... programming takes an enormous amount of concentration. If you have family problems then you aren't going to be much good to me. Go home and get them straightened out.

      The result has been an extremely loyal, hard working group who will, without being asked, stay to complete the job no matter how long it takes. They are, of course, paid for that time and food is brought in when required... but they don't have to ask if they'll be compensated. They know they will.

      The rules here are... don't do anything illegal and if you find some good porn - you have to share it.

  • Net monitor policies (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 )
    are usually made by idiots or people with a real power trip going.

    I tell them I monitor it, and I kind of do with the squid proxy for porn related... yes, I'm evil and squashing your rights to disallow you watching fisting or beatality videos here at work...

    but it's common knowlege in all the offices I maintain and supply that I dont give a rats ass what you do or where you go...BUT, if you are the source for a virus attack or I get complaints... I will fry your but hard.

    Overzealous monitoring is only done by people that really need to be on medical leave and treated for the social and mential disorders that they are afflicted with.
    • by krray ( 605395 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:00PM (#5252328)
      I have to agree 100%. I've always told people that spikes in storage and/or spikes in bandwidth usually get my attention automagically.

      Have them do something on their system to demonstrate.
      My pager then goes off as they begin to understand.

      Explain "spam" and what to do with inbound. Outbound is, well, just unacceptable. Other minor guide lines, etc.

      I have a secretary that I *know* is instant messaging with her daughter in a far away state. I "monitor" phone bills too and have seen such calls from time to time. Nothing regular and lengthy -- but family *is* part of who you hire. People, we *are* all just people...

      I'd rather have her chat when she can. I know when the work isn't getting done. People also know that anybody and everybody wanders the building and may end up looking at your screen at any time. What was the passing game to do 20 years ago in your office? Same problem, different era.

      Yeah, I _could_ try and *CONTROL* people and make their will mine. I would also have very hostile employees...
  • by dubbayu_d_40 ( 622643 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:47PM (#5252207)
    I'm pretty sure the restrictions are just another symptom like low morale. In other words, something else, something more fundamental about the organization stinks.
  • by eniu!uine ( 317250 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:48PM (#5252217)
    I'm sorry, but there's no way I'm ever going to make lvl 65 if I can't play at work. I make more selling cat pelts than I ever have at my real job anyway... if it was only real money. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

  • Working from home... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bluenova ( 533033 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:49PM (#5252224)
    I am the network administrator at a 200 person or so company. We have strict corporate computer policies that strictly forbid using computers for anything other than business use, but no internet monitoring software is in place. (CEO won't spring for's not a cool enough buzzword like CRM and such.) Personal use of the internet, telephones, etc. on company time is strictly forbidden. Yet, here I am today, at home with the "brazilian death flu", and I have gotten at least 25 phone calls, everything from "How do I design this outlook form" to "Can you come by this afternoon and move my computer?". Even during weekends and non-work/call hours we get calls to do things of this sort. Would you consider this a double standard? Just curious how people feel on this subject.
  • by Chope ( 535318 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:55PM (#5252274) Homepage
    The commentary thus far seems to be, "All companies should trust everyone and not block anything." Get real.

    The articles referenced speak to the issue that companies are pretty much forced to block certain sites for liability reasons - porn, hate/violence and gambling being the most common. Some companies (one I used to work for) blocked more, including online shopping. When you get to that level, different companies are going to adopt different policies, and it's ridiculous to try and say "one size fits all".

    If you're in a manufacturing site with one supervisor responsible for 50 people being paid by the hour, the supervisor can't monitor every employee every second of the day. They need some help, and filtering is a valuable tool. If you're at a high-tech company of professionals with a supervisor who's responsible for 8 people, it's a lot easier to detect and manage any performance problems related to excessive surfing.
    • by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:14PM (#5252440)
      For the most part, it works. In our shop, everyone has pretty restrictive access to the computers, so that they're not installing spyware and other crap. But as far as email, web surfing, etc., here's our policy:

      "Are you getting your job done?"

      If people are fulfilling the responsibilities of their jobs, then we don't worry. If they're not, then there's a problem, and it's a problem that just blocking access to certain web sites is NOT going to fix.

  • by yndrd ( 529288 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:55PM (#5252277) Homepage
    First it was the phone. Then it was e-mail. Then it was the Internet. Ever since 19th century sweatshops had people reading Bible verses to their employees, management has worried about lost productivity.

    The question they fail to ask, though, is: why do people waste part of their eight hour day? Because they don't need eight hours every day to do their jobs. Maybe they need twelve one day and four the next. Maybe they need six months of fourteen hour days and six months off.

    I think a larger issue needs to be addressed: do we still need the traditional eight-hour work day? If you're in a reactive job (manning phones or a cash register), I can understand it.

    For everyone else, it is just for appearance's sake. "Quick! Look busy!"
    • "The question they fail to ask, though, is: why do people waste part of their eight hour day?"

      Some services (especially banks and physicians) are only available for a small part of the day. There may be some overlap, but what can you do when a customer-service line or bank closes at 4:00PM and you don't get out of work until 5:30PM?

      Slowdowns during the day aren't uncommon. As someone else said, when you're waiting for a program to compile, it's an opportunity to look at the Internet or personal email. There can be a brief lull between meetings, waiting for coworkers, etc.

      do we still need the traditional eight-hour work day?

      Try collaborating with a group in a different timezone -- preferably overseas. When you only have an hour or two when everyone is "in the office", organization and communication becomes difficult and slow. The same thing would happen if everyone picked their own hours and days.
    • by benzapp ( 464105 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @07:23PM (#5254353)
      Then it was the Internet. Ever since 19th century sweatshops had people reading Bible verses to their employees, management has worried about lost productivity

      It wasn't until the LATE 19th century. It was really not until Pavlov that conditioning of humans seemed to be a real possibility.

      This is why people are no longer free. The desire to micromanage free people like they are machines is inherently inhuman. The untold misery of modern world can be traced to that single fact.

      Most of the attempts at conditioning workers to accept drudgery and to do so without any loss of efficiency is what created the modern school system. Public schools were created to solve the problem you have just presented. For the most part, they have worked. People no consider it completely normal they are not paid for a specific task, but to serve a function like a machine. Before, a farmer was paid for his produce. A mason was paid for the buildings he constructed or parts thereof. The cobbler was paid for his shoes. and so on...

      Blame Andrew Carnegie and Charles Schwab (of US Steel, not his grandson of the broker fame) and their ilk. They looked upon us ignorant masses and decided to whip us into shape.
  • Business 2.0? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zico ( 14255 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:56PM (#5252285)

    Um, weren't these guys one of the original hypemongers of the "new economy," telling us that the way dotcommers ran their business would become The Way? Yeah, I'll be sure to take their business suggestions real seriously. Now, why the hell should an employer have to pay for an employee doing personal things for "a few minutes or hours" (Hours?! Jesus.) when they're supposed to be helping improve the company?

    That and the second part about employees doing more work at home than goofing of at work all boil down to one thing: Learn how to manage your friggin' time properly and you won't have to worry about that.

  • by IAmTheSuit ( 626924 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:56PM (#5252292)
    I am the network admin at a small manufacturing company (~300 people, including plant workers). With the ever-increasing number of workstations available to low-skilled workers (especially after hours), there is a great temptation to mess around with the computer when the boss isn't looking. We've had hard drives and RAM stolen (solution []), people drawing "creative" wallpaper in MS Paint (solution []), and all sorts of other unproductive stuff.

    I'd love to be able to trust ALL network users, but unfortunately it is not possible in a manufacturing facility. If this was purely an office setting, then our T1 would be unrestricted.
  • I hate my job and so why should I care abo^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H


    I love my job and want to apologize to the world for stealing company electrons for my own personal use. I am the happiest corporate drone of all time and would like to remind all employees that reading /. at work is stealing and might be a violation of the DMCA!
  • by Salo2112 ( 628590 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @02:58PM (#5252310)
    I'm the guy stuck monitoring web usage where I work. We try to be reasonable, but it only takes one idiot to bring the world down on everyone. Our HR dept tells us we really can't handle issues on a case-by-case basis: we have to have a blanket policy that (in theory) applies to everyone. So the guy who does (or wants to do) a little banking from work is punished because some moron won't quit trying to get to As bad as it was when it was "no personal use of the internet," it became worse when we tried a "limited personal use of the internet" policy. We have met the enemy, and it is us....
  • by ceswiedler ( 165311 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:03PM (#5252352)
    1. As a programmer, I often have to learn new technologies and find new ways of doing things. Books are good, but there is nothing better than the internet. When I've had to do things like image compression (not my forte as a developer) I've blatantly 'stolen' code from various sites.

    2. As a programmer, I'm often presented with short minutes of downtime, while I recompile. My habit of switching to my browser at these moments is very deeply ingrained. The reason I read /. is because it's frequently updated with something new (and occasionally interesting) to read. I'm so used to this, that when I reboot, my first impulse is to switch to my browser. Then I realize that I can't, and I look around for a book or something.
  • Pass me a hanky. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LazloToth ( 623604 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:03PM (#5252356)
    "....employee morale is generally down when net controls are in place."

    Administrator morale is generally down when employees are free to download every spyware app known to man, then complain to IT about their Windoze boxes blowing up while they were entering their network passwords into Gator.

  • by legLess ( 127550 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:07PM (#5252390) Journal
    The point of this rant is "trust but verify." I was pretty permissive about what people did, and almost everyone paid that back with respect for my requests. Some hard-line sysadmins I knew were always complaining of problems, and trying desperately to implement technical measures preventing people from (e.g.) shopping during their lunch hours. Consequently their users hated them. I had, and enforced, only one policy, trusting the users to make the best use of their own time. If they had a performance problem it was their manager's problem, not mine, and it was measured by actual work performance, not 'net access logs.

    When I ran the network for a 60-person architecture firm, I used to bust people for porn, but nothing else. Every new employee got the same schpiel: "Do what you want with your computer, aside from setting it on fire. See these settings here? They're company-wide. You can change 'em, but they'll be back in the morning. Here's where you make your own custom settings. You can't install anything from your browser, which is for your own security; ask me if you want to install anything else and I'll probably say yes. One thing - no porn."

    It worked well, and most people said it was much more lenient than other places they'd worked. The company's policy was "no porn" and I supported it whole-heartedly. I don't care if people watch porn, but doing it at work is (a) nasty and (b) begging for a lawsuit.

    I'd bust someone, usually a new hire, about every six months. Some of them did a brilliant job of sanitizing their machines, but they couldn't get to the proxy logs. They'd get a stern talking to by the principals, enough to make most of 'em wet themselves, 'specially when presented with a list of all the sites they visited, and we had no repeat offenders.
  • This is old. I can remember a few of my jobs
    where monitoring was close, if not closer than
    what I see today.

    One of them was where I was working for the
    Department of Defense. We all worked in an open
    area. The desks were set up like desks in a large
    classroom. There were not deviders or partitions.

    In front of the room was the glass enclosed (not
    frosted glass, mind you, but the clear kind)
    office of the manager. He might has well had
    his desk in front, just like my teacher when I
    was a little boy in school.

    4 people shared each phone. The computer terminals
    were on tables along one side of the room, also
    in plain site of the manager's. office.

    No newspapers were allowed. If you spent too
    much time talking with someone, the manager is
    bound to notice and look up with a frown.

    A buzzer sounded at 7 AM when the workday started.
    The horn of the lunch truck signaled the beginning
    of lunch. A buzzer sounded at 3:30 in the
    afternoon for the day's. end.

    Another job I had was in a high security
    environment. A closed circuit TV camera was
    mounted in one corner of the room, visible to
    all desks. The person at the monitor for that
    camera could see all of us and what we were

    IMHO, this is monitoring.

  • by DigitalDad ( 307095 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:15PM (#5252448)
    Where I work (a 250 bed hospital), every employee who has a desk has a computer which is wired to the network. We also have monitoring software which can and does monitor the outbound traffic. Being one of two network admins (it's a large network) part of my responsability is to make sure that no one ABUSES the priviledge of being able to surf the web. Don't get me wrong, company policy states the usuall "no personal business at work", but it's very loosly enforced. Recently I have been having to more closely monitor the traffic becuse there were a few individuals that were spending most of their time visiting porn sites - some of them nurses. The thing is, everyone jumps to accuse corporate policy about monitoring, but the problem really lies in the few employees that abuse the privilage.
  • by Proc6 ( 518858 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @03:42PM (#5252650)
    If you have to block net access, or monitor everyone's every move, your business is set up wrong. Try a little something like this...
    • Hire decent, reliable people. (seriously, who can't point to half the people they work with and go, "why were they hired in the first place?") You should be able to tell based on their interview, credentials, past performance, etc, if you are about to hire a responsible person, or a day-trading addict. If you can't, maybe you shouldn't be the one hiring people. Find someone who can.
    • Give people work to do, and expect it gets done on time. If you have an employee that CAN piss away 7 hours reading Slashdot, then you should probably "down-size" them. How about assign projects, give them a reasonable time to do it, and let them do it. If they can do the work well, and give themselves some free-time to surf, hey, whatever. If they surf the whole time, and the deadline rolls around and nothing is done or the work is shoddy. "goodbye".
    • Check on your employees once in awhile. Do managers just have teams they never talk to? Yes, probably, the manager himself is probably in his office beating off to How about hire managers that round robin their employees, staying in touch with them, checking on them, helping them. You'll find those idiots that always seem to have Minesweeper on the screen when you walk in, real fast. No need for Big Brother.
    You shouldnt be hiring humans if you want robotic fixed patterns of movements and actions. I dont know about everyone else, but very much of the time Im staring off into space or glancing at, the problems at hand are bubbling around in my head, imaginging the scenarios out, taking in the big picture of the project... then when I lay hands to keyboard, I do it once, and I do it right. It just seems to me, it should never have to get as far as this elementary school spy bullshit.
  • by Phrack ( 9361 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @04:09PM (#5252852)
    Gotta do it.. gotta parse those Snort logs and see what's been crossing the wire. At this company, no one cares if you take a break and catch up on the scores, political news, slashdot, etc... but when 19 unique PORN signatures show up (about 250 total hits) for a month, that's out of line. And when your Gnutella habits suck up half the available upstream circuit, you're also out of line. You're paid to work, to complete a set of tasks and move on to the next set. No one denies the occasional break, especially if previous job performance shows good work. But, you're not paid to swap files or check out hentai. Deal with it.

    Personally, it depresses me.. I despise the times I have to check the logs, knowing that some coworkers cannot seem to maintain some professionalism, even if they aren't being actively managed at 2am.
  • by Zed2K ( 313037 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @04:15PM (#5252897)
    I work from home on weekends sometimes and I surf and do personal stuff at work sometimes. Its a trade-off as far as I'm concerned. If they ever complained or took it away at work then they would see me in at 9 out at 5, right on the dot. I also wouldn't be doing any work at home. They don't trust me then I won't go the extra mile for them.
  • by limber ( 545551 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @04:16PM (#5252908) Homepage
    Yeah, my friend works for a company that sets up porn sites, and he said when I.T. implemented Net filtering, productivity went down the tubes... :-)
  • by thrillbert ( 146343 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @04:19PM (#5252936) Homepage
    employee morale is generally down when net controls are in place

    Firings will continue until morale improves!

    Which is worse: ignorance or apathy? Who knows? Who cares?
  • by Like2Byte ( 542992 ) <> on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:16PM (#5253450) Homepage
    I used to work for a company that did this. It was a great place to work and socialize. We'd go out after hours to relax together - all 30 to 40 of us.

    We all got our work done before deadlines.

    Then the 'management' instituted this internet/mail watch. One video clip e-mailed *to* me later wound up hurting 15 guys on the cc list. The guy who sent it was banned from the net. The rest of us were all banned from the net for 30 days and we didn't even have to have seen it. I hadn't even checked my mail before they summoned us into one room to chew us all out.

    I left the company three weeks later over this as did several others. Now, for the people that still work there, they say the company morale sucks and morale was never like it was from 1998 to 2000. Too bad, too. Really great bunch of people they were.

    Now, the company has gone through four layoffs and is working with a skeleton crew.
  • by Punk Walrus ( 582794 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @05:43PM (#5253658) Journal
    I used to work for a QA Lab. I have horror stories that I won't bore you with, but because some people weren't watched, we had:

    - Systems repair because some jerk downloaded some pr0n4U.exe file that fucked up his machine
    - Systems repair where people fill their hard drives with pr0n, mp3s, warez
    - LAN slowdown because people are downloading pr0n, mp3s, warez

    The list goes on and on! You know what *I* think of people who do this crap instead of work? Lazy bastards! So do you know what I think of spying on them?


    I mean, you knew who did work and who didn't. I don't care what employee A's reason of lack of work was, he wasn't working! He could have been reading highly technical manuals, staring off into space, embracing co-ed frottage at the water cooler, whatever. He/she's a slacker! And not in the good "Bob" way, either. I could have told you that without any bandwidth-stealing monitoring software.

    The fact is, if you can't tell how an employee is doing with proof of work... you got bigger problems.
    __________________________________________________ [] - a journal into the forays of living mysteries

  • Morale (Score:3, Interesting)

    by marshac ( 580242 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @06:31PM (#5253979) Homepage
    Where I work as a sys admin, we used to have a box dedicated to monitoring web activity. While I disagreed with the monitoring of employees, I was told to implement it by the director. Morale across the office plummeted the very next day. It was horrible. One of the biggest complaints people had was that the monitoring software has no idea if you are on break or not... and if you are on break, why not visit your online banking? It is after all, YOUR time. To compound this matter, it turned out that the director had a voyeuristic streak to her.... She would spend over an hour a day looking at what sites people would go to....remember, this was not the employee's boss, this was their bosses' boss. She would never say anything to anyone about the stats.... She just liked to watch.

    I thought, and still do think, that this was a complete waste of her time.... After all, isn't observing web based stats of employee web use just as bad?
  • net surfing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Friday February 07, 2003 @09:03PM (#5254994) Homepage Journal
    I was once busted for visiting during lunch, one time.
    I was also busted for visiting the MSDN site as well as other C++ websites. I'm a programmer.

    A co-worker who conducts ALL his personal business from work ( he blames it on all his phone calls from home being long-distance and his mortgage) had pages and pages of non-work sites he had visited in 2 weeks time. Not a word was said to him.

    It's fine to be restrictive, but be consistent.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"