At my last job, I was pretty adamant, as the person who implemented Internet policy, that we should leave things relatively free, and not do any filtering or monitoring of our employees. Except for a few instances, I never had much of an argument from executive management, though I once had to threaten to quit to maintain my policy. Now I’m glad to see my philosophy vindicated.

If you’re in a knowledge business, it is simply not possible to be focused on work for eight hours straight. Anyone who believes, in a knowledge or research field, you can spend eight hours straight focused on a singular mental task is delusional, and probably, to be blunt, not smart enough to ever have done that kind of creative work. Designing a drug is not even remotely anything like assembling a car in a factory.

You need some mental relief from the day. In tech, I’d take a break when I could no longer make headway on a problem. You get to a point where you kind of hit a wall, and you need to step away from the problem a bit. When you come back to it, often the answer is obvious. I’ve had more than a few cases where I’d step away, go read an article on an unrelated subject, then come back and see the error of my ways immediately.

10 thoughts on “Vindicated”

  1. My company is broken into segments of old and new. Some offices have ping pong tables and gaming systems in conference rooms, other locations have task masters that rule with surveillance and sneaking over site. The turn over on the task master is higher, no surprise.

    Set realistic goals, and fire all Project managers.. LOL

  2. Well, I see a ‘soft’ version of this. It’s ok to surf or goof off so long as it’s politically correct materials you are seeking or discussing.

    I work at Supermegacorporation as a contractor and yes, guns pop up on my browser quite a bit. I use SSH to tunnel my browsing home to bypass the PC filters, both because my hobby is ‘scary’ to some, and that as a programmer, sometimes my searches on how to do a task take me to sites considered to be ‘security risks’

  3. I don’t know how many times I’ve railed against web filters, basically letting management know they were coming to the IT department for a technical solution to a “human” (read: management) problem. If Bob surfs inappropriate sites at work, then counsel and/or fire Bob. Simple, but requires some backbone.

  4. We had a taskmaster for a number of years at our company. During that period of time very little productive work was done, as everyone was miserable. I started this blog during that time, largely because there just wasn’t as much to do, since no one was working, and no one gave a shit.

    For some reason the guy regarded me well, and listened to me when I suggested we not snoop what our employees are doing on the computer. Many other very talented people left during his reign, which contributed greatly to my current unemployment situation.

  5. I am a Senior SysAdmin for a bank and our CIO has been very smart about this and not allowed supervisors and managers to pass the buck of actually managing their employees to IT. As far as IT is concerned we really only care about stuff that is dangerous to our network, phishing scams, malware, stuff like that. HR insists on blocking pr0n and online gambling but that is about it.

    If employees want to spend half the day on Facebook or ESPN the IT dept doesn’t care. The employees supervisor might but that is another story.

  6. I didn’t even do porn blocking. Most of the filtering software I’ve ever used had a pretty high false positive rate.

  7. Our technical security guy, who is very good, was able to point to what percentage of hosts got compromised via web surfing and from what sites doing what. We lost a LOT of hosts to web exploits. Multiple hundreds a year. Out of 15,000 or so we have.

    We installed Ironport use use the reputation filters and also blocked by category porn sites. Those people providing “free” porn expect to get paid in some fashion by someone… With this and some custom filters on the tipping points it’s now multiple dozens of hosts a year.

    We also work hard to prevent the use of this for monitoring purposes and by HR. The only site I often went to that this blocked was

  8. We implement a filtering service. HR isn’t reviewing the logs, and they are pretty open. But, I do look on occasion, and it saves tons of time in tracking down malicious JavaScript. The browser is the new attack vector. And that’s coming in through simple visits to large, well regarded news sites, etc.

    As far as Facebook and such, that’s a management problem, and you can’t block the cellphones anyway, so learn how to manage.

  9. My experience working for a Supermegacorp is similar to Robb’s. All web traffic in the office had to flow through a company proxy so they could keep us off “naughty” stuff. Unfortunately that category was gradually expanded to all forums, misc. blogs that weren’t reputable enough, which is a lot of tech forums and blogs, but the final kick in the nards was when every query string with the word “proxy” in it was denied. Yep, even a Google search was blocked.

    Sorta made looking for info on an IIS reverse proxy to our BEA Weblogic clusters difficult. IT reversed that policy right quick when I pointed out how it was affecting me. I’ll give them that.

    If you get overzealous with that stuff it’ll bite productivity in the behind. And that’s discounting the positive benefits of a bit of “goof off” time which I do agree with.

    You’ve got to have time away from the keyboard to solve a hard problem here and there. If you ratchet down the web browsing they’ll just find another outlet. Chat with your co-worker, make extra trips to the coffee pot (and bathroom), or just go walking around the building on break. I’ve seen them all, and they work.

    Today I’m really lucky. I’m working as the IT guy in the family greenhouse (a seriously weird career move but I love it) so when I get stumped I wander out to the floor, adorning my company T-shirt, and help people out. It’s relaxing and it’s productive. I usually get back into my office and have an “ah hah!” moment and we’re rolling again.

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