Employee Issues with Surfing the Internet?

Do you have an issue with your employees not doing their jobs during the day? Several businesses that I consult with have asked me how they can stop their employees from surfing the internet and hanging out on Facebook.

Unfortunately, there is no “one easy answer” for this. Before I make any recommendations there are two questions that need to be asked. The first question I ask is what role is the employee within the organization and how old is the employee? The second question I ask is do you know why are they surfing the internet or hanging out on Facebook (have you asked them)?

The reason I ask the question in regards to their age and the role of the employee is that most of the time the answer is the same. The employee is typically a GEN Y (Born in the mid-1980s and later). (Don’t rule out Gen X’s that were born later and closer to Gen Y’s either because some of them have similar traits) A key thing to keep in mind about GEN Y employees is that they grew up with technology and rely on it to perform their jobs better. Generation Y is plugged-in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their Smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets, This generation prefers to communicate through e-mail and text messaging rather than face-to-face contact and prefers webinars and online technology. They are typically boarded in traditional lecture-based presentations. In addition, generation Y craves attention in the forms of feedback and guidance. Not only do they appreciate being kept in the loop and often seek frequent praise and reassurance, but they feel that is their right. They are not afraid to question authority and will get bored easily if they are not properly challenged. These individuals who have grown up with technology are also usually multi-taskers and they will think nothing of surfing the internet and texting at the same time. Unfortunately, research has proven that multitasking actually hurts productivity. So the question remains … how do we move these people to perform their jobs and NOT surf the internet??

OPTION A – The first choice is to completely stop that employee from being able to access the internet from their computer. You can set your Internet router to deny all port 80 traffic to the WAN from the IP address of the client PC you want to block. This is something you may need help from your local IT person to set up for you? By doing this you will effectively block that one PC from Web access, while still allowing all over LAN users full access to the Internet. This option is quite drastic and if you choose this option you may want to make it an official rule and disable internet access for any employee that does not use a web-based program as part of their day-to-day functions. Keep in mind that there are two additional challenges with this option. 1) The employees that do not have internet access will probably feel that they are not trusted and may even consider leaving. AND it has not stopped OR corrected the issue. Remember, I said that most people have smartphones. They will just start texting and surfing on their phones instead. The underlying issue of why has not been solved. 2) The chance of anyone today not needing internet access while performing their jobs at some point is very slim. Even if it is not to work on an internet-based program full time, they may need to research something?

OPTION B – The second choice and the one I recommend is to spend more time with them. I know it may sound crazy but why do they have time to surf the internet and hang out on Facebook?  My guess is they either don’t have enough work to do … or they are bored. Either way, there is a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed. So where and how do you start? Every employee needs to have a clear job description and they need to know what is expected of them on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  In addition and probably one of the most important things; they then need to be properly managed. What do I mean by that? As an owner or supervisor, the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that have been requested/assigned will need to be followed up and monitored on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. How do you do that? Monitor and follow up on what has been asked. Potentially even create an Audit Checklist that can be completed and reviewed with them once a week in the beginning and then once a month when you both feel comfortable about what is being accomplished. Are they doing what they have been requested to do and are they living up to your expectations? Do they need or require additional training to perform their job? Are they feeling challenged and are they happy? After a few months of progress, you may want to move the Audit process and meeting to once a Quarter. Just my personal opinion, although I see plenty of organizations that have employee reviews once a year, I would personally never recommend that. Businesses and organizations these days change too quickly and therefore even the job descriptions and expectations may change more than once a year, so it is important to make sure everyone stays on the same page with the vision and direction of the company.

Only you can decide whether to choose option A or option B.

Option A is ultimately the hard discipline route to take and it may not get you the results you want, but it will stop them from using your computer during work hours to surf and hang out. Option B is a lot more work on your part, but I am confident that it will be a lot more rewarding for all parties long term. Option B should assist you to build a long-term strong team of people that can take your business to whatever level you choose. After all, I could be wrong, but I don’t think that when I am asked the question “how do I get my employees to stop surfing and going on Facebook” during the day is really the question that they are truly asking me. Do you? Think about it. Why is the employee not “doing their job” or should I say, why is the employee “not doing what you think they should be doing”? Isn’t that the real question?