CIO Symmetry

Jul 29 2011   1:21PM GMT

Does your Internet usage policy make your employees cry?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

How are you feeling today? Lonely? Upset? Vaguely withdrawn from society? If so, quick — check your Twitter stream on your smartphone. Better now?

We’ve all heard BlackBerry jokingly referred to as a “CrackBerry,” but according to a recent study of 1,000 U.K. workers, 53% of technology users experience real psychological trauma when disconnected from the Internet, whether it’s checking email or their social media sites or just checking the news of the world. Research indicates that the feeling really is like getting a bit of an addictive fix.

This explains so much. I have many friends and acquaintances whose employers have a “locked down” Internet usage policy, preventing them from going to certain websites like Google+, Gmail, Facebook and YouTube. Those same people rarely have much good to say about their job. Let’s not fool ourselves: They’re still getting to those websites while at work — they’re just doing it much more creatively, either by finding proxy sites or by using their mobile devices. If a well-meaning executive thought that she could prevent productivity loss by Internet surfing, she’s completely mistaken because people will do anything, even defy corporate policy to get their Twitter fix. Instead of the risk of losing data, the policy has guaranteed a loss of employee satisfaction and risks them heading over to with their resumés in hand.

I’ve heard CIOs remark that a strict Internet usage policy is meant to prevent data theft or proprietary information being broadcast on social networks, but just as employees will find a way to get to their email, if they really wanted to take home proprietary information, they will. There’s always the ever-handy USB drive, not to mention the old-fashioned printer room, with its convenient fax machine.

So tell me, CIO Symmetry readers, do you block some portion of the Internet on the corporate network? If so, is it just obviously inappropriate sites, or do you also prevent employees from accessing their personal email or places where proprietary data could leave the building, places like Google Docs and Dropbox? If you are selective, which kinds of websites are considered safe? Wikipedia, for instance, allows users to upload content but has a huge benefit — is that kind of website prohibited? And is your Internet usage policy a point of contention? Can you explain your strategy behind this practice?

The comments are eager to hear your theories on the perfect Internet usage policy.

2  Comments on this Post

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  • Hlw
    There is probably some in-between state that protects both the company's network and provides the employees reasonable freedom to connect. I've seen sites like which isn't a proxy but rather creates a totally separate browser outside the corporate network (like say a citrix remote application) which might accomplish this. It is a pay-for site but it protects the company's network by not allowing the browser inside the corporate firewall and allows the employee to browse.
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  • JohnnyBrave
    We also noticed this on our work environment. Our employees are very much attached to social networking and other similar sites that actually trigger unproductive time and computer usage. We tried blocking those major sites they visit and like what you mentioned, what they only did was they try to bypass it and still were able to gain access. It seems like the more we block it, the more they seek for it and access it. Right now, also after having read [A href=""]this article[/A] that explains why businesses actually need computer and internet usage policies, what we did was we unblocked all of those sites again. We just employed a complete time tracking software which monitors their time and computer usage. This actually increased the productivity of workers. After all, what's important is that the computer and internet usage policy has to be clear (no matter how strict is) to both the employers and employees. We don't really want to waste a lot of time at work.
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