Sunday, February 8, 2009

Restricting Internet access at work

Another issue that could impact on the eMentoring project I am managing, is how much people are 'allowed' to access the Internet at work.

Restricting the Internet at work
What I am rapidly realising is that a lot of employers are very reluctent to let their employees have full access to the Internet. Only the other day I was talking to an employer who had had to restrict use of the Internet because employees were abusing it, and spending all their time on Facebook and eBay. And the employer's system was flooded by spam as a result.

How do I answer employers when they indentify these sorts of problems? How can I work with employers to encourage them to allow full access to the Internet, yet educate employees about responsibile use of the Internet?

Fun and work
I have talked before that the delineation between work and play will become increasingly blurred. The 2008 Pew/Internet report "The future of the Internet" re-enforces this view and says "The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who’s connected."

I wouldn't have a problem with my employees using Facebook as long as the work was done. At the same time, I would look at how I could channel people's interest and skills at social networking into more 'professional' activites to facilitate learning in the workplace - eMentoring being one such activity.

Open access
My challenge as manager of the eMentoring project, is to find ways of selling this to employers in aged and community care. I believe one important way of doing this is to model how social networking can be incorporated into work practices. So I am going to start with using Google Documents to develop all the documentation for the project, especially those documents that I am collaborating on.

Does your employer restrict your use of the Internet at work? If so, how do you feel about that? If you are an employer, what are the issues you face with regard the Internet and employees' use of it?

Image: 'Ward at Alpha Hospital' tahitianlime


Buckeyebrit said...

Where I used to work, rather have freeing up the filters as such we used to have an "override" code which took us to a screen which meant to that proceed we had to confirm that it was work related and understood that it would be more closely monitored. The IT dept then feedback to our line managers if there were any concerns. No idea how they did this technically? I have had similar problems with people who want to get involved with the webSIG I have just started. I have given them some screen shots of the group and asked them to speak directly to their IT dept. Will be interested to see how they get on.

M-H said...

Sarah, this is a well-recognised issue with health employees in Aus especially but not only state government organisations. People who try to access our online learning system from hospitals, for example, have all kinds of problems. There seems to be a huge climate of fear about 'the internet' in hospitals.

But, oddly, Universities are very large sites that don't restrict their employees' or students' access to any websites, so my suggestion to employers would be for them to consult with a big University IT department (eg UQ or QUT) to see how they control spam and deal with security issues generally. They seem to do it very efficiently.

The health argument is often based in fears about patient records 'getting out', but Universities ahave large amount of condiential data (eg research data, student records) that they seem to be able to protect sufficiently.

Phoebe (demon2diva) said...

We have restricted internet access at my high school, whilst its understandable to stop students playing games during class, it makes the internet almost impossible to use because so many sites are blocked and this makes it very hard to do projects on the internet at school

Hey i don't know if you've heard about the terrible fires in Victoria at the moment they are so bad the death toll hit 107 this morning, I've written a post about it on my blog if you'd like to have a look and learn some more about it - don't worry I'm not in any danger at the moment the fires are about 100kms away i think and they're heading the other way.

Anyway i thought I'd stop by and let you know whats been going on, i hope to hear from you soon

from Phee

InfoMidwife said...

Yes Sarah, this is a problem. Last year I introduced a online learning package that required all midwives to have internet access and this was a huge problem, due to staff abusing the system. I personally think that all staff should have internet access and educated or reminded about their professional responsibilities. How I over came the problem, it was not easy, constant dialogue with the IT dept & heads of depts and eventually, staff had limited access only - however there must be a better way!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all for your suggestions & experiences.

@buckeyebrit Yes, liking the idea of close collaboration with IT people.

@M-H Thanks for suggestion about talking to the universities etc. I don't suppose that small organisations have the same problems, but certainly there are all sorts of concerns about security.

@Phoebe Thank you so much for your comment-great to hear from you. Sounds like we all have the same sort of issues with regard to internet access whatever our age :) I guess it's about having a balance between access and education about being a responsible Internet user.

@infomidwife I just think it's a shame that we are restricted in our use of sites like YouTube because they can be a very useful education tool.