...a blog by Richard Flowers

Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 2433: Face to Facebook


Access to the Wibby Wobbly Web at work, is it a problem? Or is it a Human Right?

The TUC says that employees SHOULD have access, in particular to networking sites like In-Your-Facebook and FloorSpace.

UNSURPRISINGLY, employers reply by saying "it's a flamin' liberty!"

Mr Peter Mooney said:

"Why should employers pay for the privilege of allowing their employees to access Facebook, MySpace or Bebo from work computers whether in an employee's lunch-time or not?"

This is OBVIOUSLY WRONG – anyone who has READ the books will know that it is REMUS who is MOONEY and PETER is actually WORMTAIL!

"The lunch break may not be a paid break but there is still a cost" Mr Wormtail continues. "As we all know, lunch-time spreads into work time, so where do you draw the line?"

Because work time NEVER spreads into lunch-time and NO ONE ever does a working lunch, do they!

The employer here seems to have the PROBLEM that they think that allowing their workers any second of personal time during the working day is an INTRINSIC WRONG. This is the sort of psychosis that leads to timing people's trips to the toilet.

But surely the question should not be are you getting every second of breathing time from your employees but are they doing the work you need of them?

As a LIBERAL, I should like to think that companies work BETTER when employers and employees are working TOGETHER. Treating your workforce as SERFS leads to disaffection and poor productivity.

Suppose Hermione DOES spend half the day on Facebook: if she exceeds her target by fifty percent in the other half of the day, are you REALLY being ripped off? Draco, on the other fluffy foot, never even TOUCHES the Internet, but he's so BORED that can only bring himself to make ninety percent of his target – is he REALLY the better employee?

And is glancing at a web page now and then REALLY any different to taking a five-minute fag break every hour?

Well, there IS a BIT of a cost attached – using the office Internet does mean that someone is paying for your pipeline.

The question is how badly does it clog up the business use of the connection to the Internet which, after all, is what the company is paying for?

It is like the man who was ARRESTED for hitching a free ride on somebody else's wireless Internet connection.

People argue that he's doing no more than reading a book from the light coming out of their window – he's only using their leftovers. But that is not entirely true. Unlike light from a lightbulb, your use of bandwidth is limited and if someone else uses a little then you can't. In small increments, it genuinely makes no difference to you – but if lots of people did it, you would see the difference. If EVERYONE went freeloading their Internet, then no one would pay for it and there would BE no connections.

(The moral philosopher Mr Kant – Immanuel not Brian – called this his "Formula of Universal Law" to judge if something was morrally wrong: basically, if EVERYONE did it, would you be BUGGERED?)

Still, arresting him was a BIT HARSH!

But then again, the employer needs to make a judgement about how much excess bandwidth they want to pay for, how much of it might be used "on the sly" by the workforce and whether the rewards of a happy, motivated staff are worth the cost.

So how NAUGHTY you think it is to use the company Internet depends on your attitude to taking biros from the office stationery cupboard, or making personal phone calls.

In fact, since the Internet access is probably un-metered and the phone use is charged by the second, you may be better off to let people chat by e-mail than go back to doing what they USED to do to waste your time: gossiping on the phone!

This is a story that affects my Daddy Richard personally, because recently the place where he works doing counting changed their Internet policy. Instead of letting people use it they have decided not to. Instead, when you try to look at a web page like MY DIARY a message pops up and says: "this URL is blocked because it is TOO MUCH FUN – contact the IT department with a VALID BUSINESS REASON and we might let you look at it".

This results in considerably less joy in the workplace.

Daddy is ACTUALLY luckier than most, since he was able to persuade his bosses that there were "VALID BUSINESS REASONS" to be able to read the BBC news and the Wikipedia. So at least he can still do the IMPORTANT work of researching my diary.

But after years of being able to read the Liberal Democrat news on the Blogregator and the Doctor Who news on Owlpost Gallifrey, the deafening silence is driving him a bit peculiar. Or "more peculiar", to be completely accurate.

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