Does limiting employee internet access work?

It is not uncommon to hear about companies that restrict internet access or implement firewalls to stop employees from visiting certain sites and social media platforms – in fact, some people might actually be surprised when they hear about businesses that don’t have these restrictions in place. Studies conducted over the last few years following the rise in popularity of social media and online shopping have shown that, contrary to popular belief, these limitations in internet access are doing more harm than good.

Motivations for internet limitation strategies

One of the main reasons businesses tend to restrict internet access for employees was to remove distractions in the hope of keeping workers focused. Employers also worried at the misuse of company resources and the loss of income that could have been generated while their employees were on Facebook.

Digital security is the other main motivation for companies implementing this kind of strategy. The truth is, hackers and scammers are always innovating and finding new ways to infiltrate your personal files and bank accounts, so if people are trusting of social media and online shopping environments, that is where they will be targeted. Businesses that limit internet access also limit this threat: if none of the employees can access these platforms, then they can’t be the victim of a scam on said platform.

Other tactics employers used

As our relationship with the internet evolved, employers became aware that completely blocking their employees from all internet usage was counterproductive. Their response: firewalls that blocked users from accessing specific sites only, but still allowing general internet usage. While some employees might have accepted this and moved on with their day, there were also those that spent a significant amount of time trying to find ways around the firewalls. Of course, if the firewall is not configured properly this can end up blocking users from accepted sites and inhibit productivity even more – and place users directly in the firing line of malicious software!

Changing employers’ mindsets

Employers should realise the benefits of using social media as a tool to build their business persona, communicate with customers and clients, increase SEO and even generate leads. On a more holistic and employee wellbeing view, research shows that short, frequent breaks in work (like the ones we would take to check our social media notifications) actually increases productivity by giving the brain the equivalent of a power nap. This revitalises the mind, allowing it to refocus and concentrate more effectively afterwards and upping efficiency in the workplace.

So, should employers just let staff do whatever they want?

Not at all. The most effective method (and a good middle ground for employers and staff alike) seems to be implementing internet usage policies and informing employees that their systems are being monitored. Educating employees on the dangers of malware and hacking is also advisable, as well as ensuring the policy has been clearly communicated – then there is no excuse for misusing the company resources.

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