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Managing social media and streaming at work - sensibly and sensitively

Balancing privacy with the need to ensure productivity is imperative if businesses are to get the best out of their staff, says Gregg Knowles, Technology Director.

How productive is your workforce? It’s a question many business leaders and indeed policy-makers ponder frequently – all the more so since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived causing untold disruption to business-as-usual working patterns. Interestingly, recent figures from the ONS suggest that workers’ average output per hour increased in 2020 compared to 2019 levels after a long period of decline. Among the many reasons for this is doubtless the ability for staff efficiently to work remotely, powered by anywhere, anytime connectivity. However, connectivity can be a double-edged sword and for every manager thankful that Zoom or Teams can keep colleagues and customers in close contact, there’s another who is fretting over whether staff are spending too much time on social media or streaming videos at work.

Clearly, the potential cost to businesses of unfettered access to personal social media accounts and streaming services during working hours is a concern.

How productive is your workforce? It’s a question many business leaders and indeed policy-makers ponder frequently – all the more so since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived causing untold disruption to business-as-usual working patterns. Interestingly, recent figures from the ONS suggest that workers’ average output per hour increased in 2020 compared to 2019 levels after a long period of decline. Among the many reasons for this is doubtless the ability for staff efficiently to work remotely, powered by anywhere, anytime connectivity. However, connectivity can be a double-edged sword and for every manager thankful that Zoom or Teams can keep colleagues and customers in close contact, there’s another who is fretting over whether staff are spending too much time on social media or streaming videos at work.

Clearly, the potential cost to businesses of unfettered access to personal social media accounts and streaming services during working hours is a concern.

How productive is your workforce? It’s a question many business leaders and indeed policy-makers ponder frequently – all the more so since the Covid-19 pandemic arrived causing untold disruption to business-as-usual working patterns. Interestingly, recent figures from the ONS suggest that workers’ average output per hour increased in 2020 compared to 2019 levels after a long period of decline. Among the many reasons for this is doubtless the ability for staff efficiently to work remotely, powered by anywhere, anytime connectivity. However, connectivity can be a double-edged sword and for every manager thankful that Zoom or Teams can keep colleagues and customers in close contact, there’s another who is fretting over whether staff are spending too much time on social media or streaming videos at work.

Clearly, the potential cost to businesses of unfettered access to personal social media accounts and streaming services during working hours is a concern.

As well as the wasted time, there’s the money spent on data consumption with no business benefit, plus there could be health and safety risks, for example if workers are distracted while operating machinery. So it makes sense for businesses to manage what employees can and cannot do on work time using work devices.

Building trust

Productivity tools are now available which allow employers to monitor internet activity and to put limits and exclusions on it. Necessary as this might be to ensure staff are focussing on their jobs and not the latest must-see Netflix series, such monitoring must be handled carefully and sensitively. If staff feel that ‘Big Brother’ is looking over their shoulder, they are likely to become de-motivated and, ironically, less productive.

Instances where someone is spending hours a day on Instagram or YouTube at work may be relatively rare, but spotting serious misuse quickly if and when it happens is clearly essential. Most of the time, if systems are set up properly, such tools should simply help guide conversations around acceptable use and underpin a more realistic and open approach to the issue – and one that builds trust. Businesses can then take measured decisions around whether some apps or sites need to be blocked, or whether they can remain available but be kept an eye on, with the option to make swift changes if necessary. What’s more, if managers can see that social media or streaming activity is happening outside of office hours, they may choose to take a more relaxed approach.

It’s important to ensure that monitoring systems have adequate safeguards in place to protect employees’ rights to privacy, so that employers can only find out information about activity that they actually need to know. For example, it may be important to know if staff have accessed adult content from a work device, but not to categorise what sort of adult content was accessed. Equally, it may be fine to monitor or ban access to all political websites at work, but not specific ones. There’s a fine line here between having control and being controlling, which is why our platform only provides summarised detail to businesses rather than granular data.

Monitoring growth

There’s one further business case for using such productivity tools, and that is to monitor growth – i.e. if workers need more data or more access to certain apps, rather than less. Armed with this information, it’s much easier to make the case to the finance department or the Board to justify greater investment in higher quality network connectivity or more log-ins to specific productivity-enhancing solutions such as Teams or Slack.

Ultimately, it’s about keeping tabs on overall productivity performance, not people per se. Monitoring must positively support businesses to get the best out of their staff – if it starts to undermine individuals’ motivation, then it will become counter-productive. Therefore an open, transparent approach is advisable, engaging staff in what is happening and why, only monitoring as necessary and with discretion around the what, where, when and who. It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s it’s vital to get right.

Get in touch with the plan.com team to find out about how my.plan can ensure sensible and sensitive streaming - www.plan.com/contact-us

plan.com Technology Director, Gregg Knowles: 

Building trust

Productivity tools are now available which allow employers to monitor internet activity and to put limits and exclusions on it. Necessary as this might be to ensure staff are focussing on their jobs and not the latest must-see Netflix series, such monitoring must be handled carefully and sensitively. If staff feel that ‘Big Brother’ is looking over their shoulder, they are likely to become de-motivated and, ironically, less productive.

Instances where someone is spending hours a day on Instagram or YouTube at work may be relatively rare, but spotting serious misuse quickly if and when it happens is clearly essential. Most of the time, if systems are set up properly, such tools should simply help guide conversations around acceptable use and underpin a more realistic and open approach to the issue – and one that builds trust. Businesses can then take measured decisions around whether some apps or sites need to be blocked, or whether they can remain available but be kept an eye on, with the option to make swift changes if necessary. What’s more, if managers can see that social media or streaming activity is happening outside of office hours, they may choose to take a more relaxed approach.

It’s important to ensure that monitoring systems have adequate safeguards in place to protect employees’ rights to privacy, so that employers can only find out information about activity that they actually need to know. For example, it may be important to know if staff have accessed adult content from a work device, but not to categorise what sort of adult content was accessed. Equally, it may be fine to monitor or ban access to all political websites at work, but not specific ones. There’s a fine line here between having control and being controlling, which is why our platform only provides summarised detail to businesses rather than granular data.

Monitoring growth

There’s one further business case for using such productivity tools, and that is to monitor growth – i.e. if workers need more data or more access to certain apps, rather than less. Armed with this information, it’s much easier to make the case to the finance department or the Board to justify greater investment in higher quality network connectivity or more log-ins to specific productivity-enhancing solutions such as Teams or Slack.

Ultimately, it’s about keeping tabs on overall productivity performance, not people per se. Monitoring must positively support businesses to get the best out of their staff – if it starts to undermine individuals’ motivation, then it will become counter-productive. Therefore an open, transparent approach is advisable, engaging staff in what is happening and why, only monitoring as necessary and with discretion around the what, where, when and who. It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s it’s vital to get right.

Get in touch with the plan.com team to find out about how my.plan can ensure sensible and sensitive streaming - www.plan.com/contact-us

plan.com Technology Director, Gregg Knowles: 

Building trust

Productivity tools are now available which allow employers to monitor internet activity and to put limits and exclusions on it. Necessary as this might be to ensure staff are focussing on their jobs and not the latest must-see Netflix series, such monitoring must be handled carefully and sensitively. If staff feel that ‘Big Brother’ is looking over their shoulder, they are likely to become de-motivated and, ironically, less productive.

Instances where someone is spending hours a day on Instagram or YouTube at work may be relatively rare, but spotting serious misuse quickly if and when it happens is clearly essential. Most of the time, if systems are set up properly, such tools should simply help guide conversations around acceptable use and underpin a more realistic and open approach to the issue – and one that builds trust. Businesses can then take measured decisions around whether some apps or sites need to be blocked, or whether they can remain available but be kept an eye on, with the option to make swift changes if necessary. What’s more, if managers can see that social media or streaming activity is happening outside of office hours, they may choose to take a more relaxed approach.

It’s important to ensure that monitoring systems have adequate safeguards in place to protect employees’ rights to privacy, so that employers can only find out information about activity that they actually need to know. For example, it may be important to know if staff have accessed adult content from a work device, but not to categorise what sort of adult content was accessed. Equally, it may be fine to monitor or ban access to all political websites at work, but not specific ones. There’s a fine line here between having control and being controlling, which is why our platform only provides summarised detail to businesses rather than granular data.

Monitoring growth

There’s one further business case for using such productivity tools, and that is to monitor growth – i.e. if workers need more data or more access to certain apps, rather than less. Armed with this information, it’s much easier to make the case to the finance department or the Board to justify greater investment in higher quality network connectivity or more log-ins to specific productivity-enhancing solutions such as Teams or Slack.

Ultimately, it’s about keeping tabs on overall productivity performance, not people per se. Monitoring must positively support businesses to get the best out of their staff – if it starts to undermine individuals’ motivation, then it will become counter-productive. Therefore an open, transparent approach is advisable, engaging staff in what is happening and why, only monitoring as necessary and with discretion around the what, where, when and who. It’s a delicate balance, but one that’s it’s vital to get right.

Get in touch with the plan.com team to find out about how my.plan can ensure sensible and sensitive streaming - www.plan.com/contact-us

plan.com Technology Director, Gregg Knowles: 

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