Bosses Can't Stop Workers Goofing Off


Karl Marx may never have anticipated the contemporary corporate workplace or its Dilbert-esque conflicts, but I am going to invoke the Communist Manifesto nonetheless: workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your page views!

In the past I have written about the large proportion of office workers who use social media at the workplace -- logging on to Facebook every five minutes, watching videos on YouTube, tinkering with their resumes on LinkedIn, etc. -- and the inevitable attempts by employers to police (basically, limit or stop) this. The battle lines have been drawn, and I am pleased to report that the bosses are totally losing, according to the Cisco 2010 Midyear Security Report, which includes the results of a survey of employees from around the world.

Most notably, fully 50% of the employees surveyed by Cisco said they ignored corporate policies which ban social media in the workplace, and log into social network sites with their work computers at least once a week. Even better, over one quarter of the employees surveyed said they had changed the security settings on their work computers so they can carry on their social media activities unhindered.

When one out of every two workers violates a rule, that is not an insignificant trend -- it is an insurrection (albeit a passive, quiet one) and the fact that one out of four employees deliberately sabotages security measures provides further evidence of their will to use social media. Indeed, a few months ago a survey by Clearswift, a software security company, found that 21% of young adults said they would turn down a job if it didn't allow them to access social network sites or their personal email during work hours. Among employees ages 25-34, Clearswift found that 57% do personal tasks like checking social networks, emailing, and online shopping while in the workplace.

True, some companies bring a much more positive attitude to employees using social media, and some are creating their own proprietary social networks to encourage and enable collaboration. But I'm guessing that for every forward-thinking boss there have got to be three stuffy codgers who think first of all that social media use is never productive, and second that they can (and should) try to stop it, employees be damned. Luckily, they probably don't know anything about computers so it will be easy to circumvent their bans, and the sheer popularity of social network sites means employees should have solidarity around this issue (at one of my previous jobs, management's attempt to regulate Internet use were derailed by members of the IT staff who actively conspired with other employees to allow everyone to surf the Web).

6 comments about "Bosses Can't Stop Workers Goofing Off".
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  1. David Howard from mowster, July 27, 2010 at 5:10 p.m.

    Red staplers for everyone!

  2. John Fredette from Alcatel-Lucent, July 27, 2010 at 6:14 p.m.

    Are workers "goofing off" or are they time shifting their tasks with the understanding that what does not get done at 10am may have to get done at 10pm. It depends upon the worker and the situation. Someone is goofing off if they are ignoring a customer standing in front of their terminal while they finish sending an email to a friend. On the other hand, someone working in a cubicle who chooses to stay late or take work home with them because they were on Facebook earlier in the day seems perfectly justified.

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 27, 2010 at 7:32 p.m.

    Playing games like Farmville while being paid to work is theft. You might as well take home reams of paper from the photocopier and fill your pockets with office supplies while you're at it. Of course, using social media to reach clients or do business is another matter. Or playing Mafia Wars on your break or over the lunch hour is just fine. Don't tell me about all the ways people used to goof off before there was an internet. It was theft then and it's theft now. If you want to play for half your day, do the national economy a favor and go part-time.

  4. CJ McCabe from C-Mac, July 28, 2010 at 7:35 a.m.

    Get back to work!

  5. Sandy Miller from Success Communications, July 28, 2010 at 5:43 p.m.

    Social media doesn't make people goof off. There have always been ways people have avoided doing their work back to when they hung out at the water cooler instead of working at their desk.

    Social media can offer positive things and information that can be used at work. Also now many jobs the hours that you work are completely blurred. The jobs have them on call 24/7. So if I'm answering emails at 9:00 at night and take my computer on vacation, then its hard to determine if when I check my facebook is it on my time or the companies time.

  6. Mark allen Roberts from Out of the Box Solutions, LLC, July 28, 2010 at 8:51 p.m.

    focus on the goal, the KPI's not how they achieve them.
    Mark Allen Roberts

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