Surfing at work has a good side
Day after day, study after study shows how much time is supposedly wasted surfing the Web during work.
From financial sites, to sports, even to gambling, millions of Americans admit to visiting Web sites that are not related to their jobs. Organizations worldwide are implementing content-filtering mechanisms and developing "acceptable use" policies for the sole purpose of combating this plague.
But is the Web really the productivity drainer that many claim? Maybe not. Maybe, it's replaced old-school timewasters like the watercooler, the lunch room or even the copy machine. Some even say use of the Web has improved productivity to the point where more downtime is available.
Certainly in the IT (information technology) world, we've seen tremendous efficiencies in knowledge gathering by using the Web.
In the old days, most of us got all of our technical info via magazines, periodicals, or other printed matter. Those of us in Hawaii were lucky to get last month's Computerworld by this month. We'd keep stacks of these publications in our offices in case they contained information we might need weeks, months, even years from now, in the unlikely event we'd remember reading something about whatever was currently vexing us.
Even a task as seemingly simple as obtaining simple specifications on the latest PC was a pain. You could call the manufacturer and ask for the specs, which would take at least a couple of weeks, and you'd be lucky if you got what you wanted. The bigger manufacturers had fax services, which would allow you to call in to an automated menu system and, after hitting about 25,000 keys on your touchtone phone, you would have a document faxed to you -- and, again, you'd be lucky to get what you wanted.
The more "savvy" (read geeky) of us used primitive dial-up services like Compuserve or AOL. At 9600 baud, you could navigate text-based menus, but it was slow, difficult to find what you wanted, and, again, you were lucky if you were able to print out the information in some reasonable form.
Nowadays, it takes all of half a dozen clicks to obtain the same information that used to take hours.
So when developing an acceptable-use policy, you might want to balance the good with the bad. Let the folks keep up with the stock market and Michelle Wie's hole-by-hole scorecard because this may encourage them to use the Web efficiently for work-related tasks. If your policy is too draconian, it may backfire.