Friday, March 28, 2008

Online at Work?

Found this cartoon in The Courier Mail today. It's just perfect for the stuff I'm working on at the moment. Some may call it Web2.0, I personally just consider it how we use the internet today, being content creators and editors as well as content consumers, but I'm getting involved in how we can move into the online world as a Library Service. How we are relevant to our customers that use the internet to communicate, study, socialise, express themselves, research, plan, and generally just compliment their lives. We are exploring as an organisation how we can have a presence in that online world, and how we can use those things as tools to work more efficiently ourselves, not to mention keeping up with our industry.

Now of course, the biggest problem in our organisation is that most of the websites that one would use to explore these things, the most POPULAR websites... are all banned to staff. So no YouTube, no Facebook, no MySpace, no downloading podcasts or vodcasts, no social sites, no multimedia... it's all blocked. This is because there is a perception by those that make the decisions on things that:

a) Staff will waste valuable work time "playing".
b) Staff will "say something" in a public forum that will damage the organisation/leak confidential information.
c) There is no way to "control" intellectual property that is created on work time, which therefore "belongs" to the organisation.

Now the truth is, those staff that are going to waste time playing are already doing it. They're reading the paper all day. Ringing their spouses/families/friends two dozen times a day. Hanging out in the kitchen chatting to anyone who comes into their zone all day. They're fudging their timesheets to show that they've worked more hours than they have. They're chucking sickies when they're not sick. They're rorting the leave system so they get more time off than anyone else. Adding access to the internet stuff that is currently blocked is not going to make more people waste time at work, it's just going to give those that already do it another method to do so. And the answer isn't blocking the internet for all staff, it's management knowing those staff that do waste time, and keeping an eye on them, and ACTING when they observe it happening.

As for staff leaking information or speaking unfavourably about the organisation online? You think they aren't doing that already? You think they're not the same ones who write letters to editors under false names? You think they're not already blogging all their bitching and griping from their home computers? You think they're not bitching and griping in any other method they can find to all and sundry? Sorry, but that's already happening too, and adding full internet access at work is not going to make it any bigger a problem. What's needed there is a clear, decisive code of conduct agreement that covers all media.

And then there is the intellectual property issue. The organisation believes that anything created on work time belongs to the organisation, not the employee. Perhaps it does. But why can't that be shared? I mean this blog belongs to me. My thoughts and writing, if copied by someone else... well, they're a bit boring if they rip my stuff off but what does it hurt if they do? Eventually if anything big comes of it, it will be found out. Same goes for any ideas or work I come up with while I'm on the clock at work. If I present someone else's ideas as my own, it will be found out. And who's to say that the organisation won't actually BENEFIT from sharing ideas and concepts? Who's to say others won't build on those ideas, that they won't put their support and enthusiasm behind them? Who says that we won't get ideas from other organisations or sources that will enhance ours?

I think we need to change our attitudes towards the use of the internet as a work tool, and also change our attitudes towards the use of networking and social sites on work time. We need to understand that networking and socialising are not trivial activities. That for many people, those are the ways that they expand their knowledge and efficiency. And that with some trust and some clear guidelines, creativity can be an amazing thing.

Here's some food for thought for you...


Scott Hughes said...

If anything, I would think the company could have better security by letting employees use the internet fully at the office since they would be able to monitor it. Anyway, I like the video, especially since I know HTML, XML and all that. :)

Sleepydumpling said...

Michael Wesch does amazing stuff in pushing the boundaries on our perceptions of online culture. Check out his other videos on YouTube if you get the chance.

Queen Etherea said...

excellent points kath!