Despite the firewalls credit unions and other businesses use to block non-work websites, employees fall into the black hole of the Internet at work fairly often. Consider the following statistics from a 2012 BOLT study:
The annual payroll losses from employees spending time on tasks that are not related to work: $134 billion.
The weekly cost to businesses from employees spending time checking and editing fantasy football: $1.1 billion (seasons generally last 15 to 17 weeks).
The employee hours spent watching NCAA men’s basketball tournament games at the office: eight million.
Six in 10 employees admit to spending time on non-work related websites. These websites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google, Amazon, and Twitter.
1 in 3 employees say personal social networking sites are blocked at work. 60% would use a smart phone, tablet, or laptop to access these blocked sites.
46% of employees admit to spending time at work looking for other jobs.
Colloquial terms for this time wasting are “cyberslacking” or “goldbricking,” where an employee completes less work than they normally should — generally because they’re spending too much time on the Internet — resulting in workplace inefficiencies. Have you tried to work and simultaneously sneakily check your fantasy football team? What about working and shopping?
There’s no doubt excess time wasting is undesirable, and any on-the-clock time spent looking for another job is inexcusable, but if you are a credit union and you want to nurture a trusting, productive, modern workplace culture, data suggests there might be a benefit to the occasional Facebook update or Yahoo article.
According to Cyberslacking studies, access to personal sites at work can improve employee happiness. A 2009 study found when employees take care of personal errands such as banking and bill paying during Internet breaks, it helps alleviate stress and improve spirits. Similarly, a 2011 study found employees were more productive after Internet breaks than after traditional breaks or after talking or texting with friends.
Allowing employees to periodically surf the web requires a certain amount of faith, as employers must trust employees won’t abuse their Internet privileges. But developing trust in an employee-employer relationship is critical to the success of any workplace culture, regardless of Internet policies. According to a 2008 study, employees that feel as though they have the trust of their employer and more responsibility within the organization are more productive and perform work tasks better.
Granted, removing all restrictions is probably unwise, but granting employees a greater freedom as to what they are able to do and see can benefit both employee and employer. This is not to say credit unions should stop tracking Internet activity — credit unions need a way to identify employees who abuse polices — but giving employees the trust and the ability to mindlessly recharge their brains can outweigh some of the risks involved.
And so I ask: Is it finally time to “Tear down this (fire)wall!”?