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Neath Port Talbot Council last week sacked a worker for using eBay during office hours. What an absolute waste of time and effort that whole process must have been. How many years have people spent filing their nails, gossiping, staring out of the window, smoking, drinking coffee and otherwise not working? Now, we have the Internet being put onto our desktops so we simply have more ways to be distracted from doing our jobs. You can’t give somebody a toy to play with and then punish them for playing with it. If Neath Port Talbot Council don’t want their staff to use the Internet then they should block access to it. More to the point, long before they get to the point of firing somebody for misuse, they should have given adequate warning that usage was being monitored and considered to be excessive.
My organisation has an acceptable use policy that allows the concept of reasonable personal use of the Internet. What constitutes reasonable use is open to interpretation, but how granular should we really need to get when we have a good organisational culture that trusts it’s workforce? If an individual clearly isn’t performing in their job because they are spending all their time on eBay then it’s a issue for management resolution. If it gets to the point where somebody is being fired for it then that’s a management failure to either identify a problem or deal with it effectively.
There’s another point I’d also like to make. The tools we use for analysing Internet usage are often not very good at providing an accurate picture of what’s really going on. Log onto Facebook and leave it open but minimised on your desktop for 4 hours whilst you go about your work and you’ll see what I mean. A look at the usage logs will show hundreds of page views and give the impression that you’ve spent all morning chatting with online mates whilst you’ve have actually been hard at work.
My message to the Neath Port Talbot Council is to tighten your usage policy rules or block access altogether. In this instance you’ve failed to manage a situation that could easily have been remedied and lost trained staff that you now need to replace.