As computers become more and more sophisticated, they become more and more useful. And, the more useful they are, the more of a necessity they become.

Some may wince at the word “necessity”, but they need to realize that computers can go to more websites than just YouTube and MySpace.

There are remote email programs to keep them in touch with loved ones; there is online banking and online shopping that keeps employees at their desk and available for questions and emergencies.

Yeah, there is, too, with all of its up-to-the-minute celebrity gossip. But this is a valid entertainment for many people who demand real-time information on Brad and Angelina’s children.

Who are we to judge?

There is also a human dignity component to this question: telling an employee they cannot use the computer is like telling them they cannot check in with their baby sitter or make arrangements for dinner.

An employer needs to ask themself: Do I want employees who are so disconnected that they are willing and able to immerse themselves in work for eight hours a day?

That employer should be careful of what they wish for. They want employees who are engaged in current affairs and possibly helping to organize a charity event. They want them to have peace of mind, knowing that no incoming emails means that no one at home is sick.

And an email is much less intrusive than a phone call. You cannot receive an e-mail at an inconvenient time.

Wouldn’t that employer rather have employees who keep their minds active and stimulated by whatever they find on the internet?

OK, maybe not that kind of “stimulated.” Establishing reasonable guidelines is necessary and easily understood to be fair.

Let’s face it: today’s workplace needs creativity; and workers need to feel valued. Trust, in the modern office, is huge. Treating employees like children will reap only childish behaviour.

You cannot “uninvent” the computer. Its conveniences are well-known and depended on by many, many employees. To deny access to it will hurt morale and, in the long run, the business.


The employer and employee have a contract: the employer pays for x hours of work and the employee works for x hours.

If it were a matter of just checking emails on coffee break, that would be fine. But, let’s face it, computers can be addictive. There are games on there that are addictive along with pornography and gambling websites. Even the best employees may have no choice but to visit these.

So, take away the temptation.

Employers must also consider that these addictive websites have many viruses that could harm their computers …

… and their reputation: imagine one of their clients being sent spam, from the employer’s e-mail address, inviting them to an inappropriate website.

Does a business’s internet plan limit the bandwidth? If so, it could be paying a lot of money so that one of its employees can watch last night’s Dancing With The Stars.

These are all valid concerns, but this discussion really needs to return to what a waste of time this is for the employer – and it is their time because they are paying for it.

Even a quick email takes the employee’s attention away from their work for at least a minute. And that is a quick email. Imagine how that will add up.

A study showed that office workers spend 49 minutes of their day managing emails … just “managing” and not actually conducting required follow up. This includes emails they have been cc’d on that they really don’t need, spam, reminders they don’t need and inquiries they are not required to answer. Add to this personal emails that need to be “managed” and responded to and at least a third of their day is gone.

The worst-case scenario, if some access is allowed for personal use of work computers, is that a game develops between the employer and employee. The employer has to catch them and the employee has to skulk and hide their unreasonable use.

It is best to just forbid the practice entirely. Phone calls, magazines and even their own laptop brought to the break room will suffice.