How IT Managers Can Stop Their Team From Wasting Time Online

When there is work to do, you don't want your team wasting time online
When there is work to do, you don’t want your team wasting time online

Image Credit: bp6316

Ok, so I’m willing to confess to this crime. I really like the website Reddit and, if left to my own devices, there is a good chance that I could spend way too much time during a day exploring the various nooks and subreddits on this site. As an IT manager, you are probably facing the same problem. How many times have you walked in on your team only to find them all huddled around someone’s monitor watching the latest Star Wars trailer or a funny prank that got played on someone. Doesn’t anyone do any work here anymore?

How Big Of A Problem Is This?

Ok, let’s talk about some big numbers. The folks who watch what we do at work have been taking a look at when we start to kill time by going to various cat video and FaceBook update web pages. To the best of their ability to calculate such things, they believe that a grand total of roughly US$85B is being wasted by team members killing time doing other things. Not only is this type of activity killing the productivity of your team, but as all of those videos are streamed into your workplace they are using up precious bandwidth. Depending on where the members of your team are going when they are surfing the net, they may also be attracting viruses and other bad things.

How big of a problem is this? The bad news is that when the researchers interviewed people, they admitted to “cyberloafing” at work up to 60% – 80% of the time that they spend online at work. So as an IT manager, what are you going to do about this problem? The simplest thing to do would be to configure the workplace network to block access to sites such as FaceBook and YouTube. However, these sites do at times have a valid work-related use. Additionally, we’re dealing with IT professionals here and if there is a way around your block, they’ll probably find it.

Clearly you are going to have to use your IT manager skills to do something, but what? As an IT team leader it’s going to be up to you to use your IT manager training to develop internet usage polices that everyone is going to be able to live with. As you create these policies, it’s going to be important that you take fairness into consideration for your team members. Your goal should be to make the members of your team a part of the conversation as the policies are developed so that they feel some ownership in it instead of just having to do what you have told them to do.

What Can An IT Manager Do To Get The Team Back To Work

So what can an IT manager do to get the team back to work or doing some IT team building? The first thing that we need to agree on is that not all websites are created the same. There are some that we have no problems with members of our team visiting during working hours such as reference and industry related sites. However, there are also sites that nobody should ever be going to (porn) as well as sites that they sometimes visit. That’s why installing network software the divides the internet up into three groups of websites is the correct first step.

Once this software is in place, the software now needs to watch where team members are going on the internet. If they visit a site that is on the “sometimes” or “never” list of websites, the software needs to use an on-screen warning to let them know that they are visiting a website that may not be work related. Additionally, the software can prevent users from getting to websites that can eat up the company’s limited network bandwidth (video sites) or that are just inappropriate (porn).

When a team member visits a site that could have both a workplace and a personal use, the system should give a warning message. In order to provide team members with some personal access to their websites, the software needs to allow team members to browse such sites for 10 minutes at a time. After a team member reaches 90 minutes of browsing of a given site in a given day, the team member needed to be blocked from that site. They could get more access if they could explain to their IT manager why they needed more access as a part of their job.

What All Of This Means For You

Not all that surprisingly it turns out that the members of our IT teams are probably not spending all of their time while at work working. What they may be doing is using their internet access to surf to sites that have nothing to do with work and are hurting their productivity. What’s an IT manager to do?

This is no small problem. It’s estimated that up to $85B of time and resources are being wasted by employees killing time online. Team members have confessed to wasting between 60%-80% of their time online doing non-work related tasks. You are going to need to include your team in the process as you develop team policies regarding internet usage. The first step to solving this problem is to install network software that divides internet webpages into three groups: visit all the time, visit sometimes, and visit never. If the user goes somewhere that they shouldn’t, then a warning message should be displayed on the user’s screen. Team members should be allowed to visit sometimes sites for 10 minutes at time, 90 minutes during a day before being cut off for the rest of the day.

IT managers find themselves in a difficult situation where the members of their team are probably not being as productive as they should be because they are surfing the internet while at work. We are obligated to take steps to get them to focus on what they should be working on The best way to make this happen is to restrict their access to the websites that they should not be going to. We can make this happen, but we do need to work with our team to get their buy-in.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is right for you as an IT manager to track which websites the members of your team are visiting?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Welcome to the 21st Century IT manager! In this fantastic highly connected world that we now find ourselves living in, more and more often we no longer have to travel long distances to participate in meetings face-to-face. Instead, through the power of technology and the internet, we can now sit down at our desk and jump into a video conference. As easy as this is to do, it turns out that in this new world, there are some new IT manager skills that have not been covered in any IT manager training that go along with being successful with our video conferences.