Minimizing Tech Distractions at Work

With today's high tech ability and savvy consumers in the marketplace, it is no wonder that businesses are more than just a little concerned about possible distractions. Not only do distractions keep the employees from concentrating 100 percent on their work, in many instances they equate to outright theft of time from the employer.

This can range from things as simple as answering texts or personal cell calls while the employee is on the clock, or they may be as serious as surfing the Web while punched in and supposedly working.

In many instances, the employee truly thinks he or she is doing nothing wrong. This is largely a fault of society at large. People today have been raised seeing others using cell phones and laptops everywhere and at most anytime. So by and large, the public has been subliminally educated to the fact that this is the norm and not the exception.

Employers need to take it upon themselves to educate their work force that once they have punched the clock, their attention should focus on work for the company. Cell phones should be turned off, text communications not allowed and surfing the web an unacceptable practice on company time.

Employers should stress that even if you are only taking 5 minutes per hour away from your duties, in a typical work week that adds up to 200 minutes, or a full three hours and 20 minutes of time that was literally stolen from the company. Multiply that by the number of employees that you have and it quickly becomes apparent that this could be a big deal: It comes to over four full weeks per year, per employee. That is a lot of time theft.

People can understand things if they are put in a way that is understandable. And for many, since the practice is so commonplace, they may think that the company is singling them out for retribution. Once they have been made fully aware of the ramifications of this form of abuse, it become easier for them to fathom.

Bear in mind that habits like these are not easy to break and it will likely not stop cold turkey. Many large businesses do not allow their employees to bring cell phones to work. If they do, they have to be checked in and will be given back to them as they leave for the day.

This form of policing generally does not work well and often causes the employee to rebel. It is often better to allow them to police themselves, start off with firm warnings and build up to disciplinary measures.

Most employees want to please the boss and as long as the expectations are laid out from day one and the cause and effect is outlined completely, so they will know that if they do get caught doing something, the result will not be good.

The employer has to stick to an action plan in order for it to be effective. It is always easy to bend for the employee who has a wife that is having a baby and let them have a cell phone on them at work so that they can get the call. However, that is not fair to the other employees who might perceive that they also, might have issues like a sick relative, etc. In these cases, it is better to give out the company's office number to all and let them know that they can have any emergency phone calls go to that number and that you will notified immediately if it is important.

When it comes to surfing the World Wide Web, things get a little more difficult and convoluted, because in today's society, most business environments utilize activity on the Internet as a part of day-to-day business operations.

The challenge here is that you can not be everywhere at once and it is fairly easy for an employee to quickly slide over to an email program to check for letters or to dash over to e-Bay for a look at their auctions.

As we mentioned above, actual employee education of what these actions actually cost the company will deter a lot of this activity. Just by making employees aware that the more money that is lost in productivity due to this type of theft means less money available for raises and bonuses, will cut down a lot of the abuse.

You can go a step or two farther and have your company I.T. man install a protocol block that will only allow the workstations at employee locations to access certain websites. This will enable employers to block all sites except those that have been approved by the company as necessary to do business.

These blocks can be great, but they can also cause problems by preventing management from accessing sites where they need to go and often requiring maintenance from the company computer guru to bypass the blocks.

There are now effective monitoring programs that offer the ability to see what web domains and web sites are bring visited. After you have a meeting with your employees to explain the importance of not using the web for non-approved use, these programs can provide the required follow-up on how well employees are observing company regulations during their work shifts.

At a follow-up employee meeting, you can show them figures that proves unauthorized activity is still taking place on specific sites. Often just knowing that the employer has that information, will serve to police the people out of doing it. They will fear that they are being watched and that at any time, the boss could walk over, single them out as an abuser of the policy and fire them.

Sadly, there will be a certain amount of employees that will push the envelope and will need to be made an example of. Shockingly, you might find that the worst policy abuser may well be a long-time employee that you trusted and not the new kid in the office.

This is often due to the fact that these folks feel untouchable because they have been there for such a long period of time. They may feel that they can get away with anything. The hard part here is that no matter who is doing it, if they are caught they have to be made an example of or the policy to prevent abuse will become almost meaningless.

Technology can help a company excel at what it does and can also be a great time and productivity waster. The secret and the challenge is to realize that technology is here to stay is and to find easy ways to integrate it into company operations without becoming combative with employees in the process.

If you, as an employer, take the time to analyze things in the office environment that can be easily abused by some employees, it will become much easier to come up with a plan to stop the bleeding before it becomes a terminal condition. Do not expect it to stop completely, because it never will. However, if you can get it to a manageable level, you have won the battle.