Surf's Up At Work - InformationWeek
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4/26/2006
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Surf's Up At Work

Just when you thought it wasn't safe to surf the Web at work, now it may be. Earlier this week, a New York judge made an advisory ruling that since time spent on the Internet is much like reading a newspaper or making a personal phone call, employees should only be reprimanded--not fired--for failing to stay off the Internet.

Just when you thought it wasn't safe to surf the Web at work, now it may be. Earlier this week, a New York judge made an advisory ruling that since time spent on the Internet is much like reading a newspaper or making a personal phone call, employees should only be reprimanded--not fired--for failing to stay off the Internet.Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has weighed in on this, saying that though work time is work time, phone calls and family E-mails are fine if they're just a small part of the day. His office policy allows surfing the Web. Apparently, he didn't get his own memo, as he fired an employee earlier this year for playing a game of solitaire as he walked by.

Regardless, this particular ruling really only deals with downtime and New York City government workers. It probably won't stop corporate folks from getting fired for spending too much time watching baseball games on the Web.

So is workplace Internet use a constitutional right? One attorney has gone so far as to say so. My thoughts? A bit of diversion can be good now and then, but it's probably not something Thomas Jefferson pondered in 1787.

What matters is if all that time messing with your fantasy football team or posting on Slashdot is cutting into the time you're supposed to be fixing the network, checking out that TPS report, or in my case meeting those all-important deadlines.

It's how much off-work surfing is done and how it impacts employee performance that counts. Web filtering companies like WebSense understand that balance and can even put a quota on the amount of time employees can spend at Web sites like, say, MySpace.com.

Of course, there's also the matter of what content you're viewing. Porn is obviously off-limits, and Web video might be giving the network fits. Though arguably venturing into the subjective, a good Internet policy might define a bit of work-unrelated browsing as acceptable, as long as it doesn't hurt productivity or the network and the content isn't illicit.

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