Filtering finds a win-win situation on staff surfing

A
survey carried out in the US by Internet statistics provider eMarketer reveals
that employees spend 31 per cent of their online time surfing non-work related
sites.

No
specific figures are available for the UK workforce’s online habits, but the rise
in desktop Internet access will inevitably lead us down a similar road.
Internet filtering software has been in wide use in the education sector for
some years and can be an effective way of restricting an employee’s use of the
Internet.

Peter
Hodgson, managing director EMEA of N2H2, which supplies the Employee Internet
Management software system, explains how it can be used.

PT:
What is Internet filtering software and how does it work?

PH:
It is a piece of software that sits either on a network or a user’s hard disk
which restricts their access to the Internet by blocking out certain categories
of information, such as pornographic material.

First
you have to identify the categories, and then identify the sites within those
categories. There are a number of ways of doing this. One is through “keyword”
blocking, where the page being requested is automatically scanned as it comes
into the client network. If certain restricted words are included in the page,
the software will automatically prevent it from being displayed.

The
other, more comprehensive method is to use automatic intelligence and spidering
techniques to assist a human review process where pre-determined categories
have websites included in the database. If a request for the website is
encountered, the system will then advise that the website cannot be retrieved.

PT:
Why do HR managers need to look at installing filtering software?

PH:
As more and more useful services go online, the temptation to use the Internet
for all your personal chores during the working day becomes greater. Whether it
is used for ordering groceries, visiting gambling sites, looking for a holiday,
downloading music – the distractions are endless.

Many
companies choose to ignore the situation because they fear a backlash from
staff if they are restricted from universal access to the Internet.

The
Industrial Society says employers should accept that people will spend some
time surfing leisure-oriented sites at work because the same technology also
lets them work at home in their leisure time. This sounds fine in theory, but I
don’t think it works in practice because the temptations are too great.

If
an employee spends all day making personal phone calls they would be overheard
by their co-workers and managers and something would be done. The Internet is
silent and nobody knows what you’re using it for, so some kind of controls are
needed.

PT:
How do workforces react to these restrictions?

PH:
It seems sensible that some restrictions, maybe only during specific times of
the day, are employed to ensure that staff are really focused on their work.
You could set the software to block leisure-oriented sites for most of the day,
but allow them to shop at tesco.com (or wherever) for half-an-hour at the end
of the day.

Employing
filtering software in this manner is a win-win situation. Employees treated
with respect should feel the company is doing its best by them, giving them the
opportunity to use the Internet for personal use at certain times of the day,
but helping them stay focused at other times.

PT:
Does the UK have a major problem with staff surfing for pleasure at work?

PH:
Given that, according to the Chancellor, Britain has the lowest
productivity output from any European country, we may ask ourselves why.
Considering that one hour per day of unnecessary surfing can cost around
£500,000 per 100 staff per annum, the Internet is one area where companies can
make an immediate impact. Filtering software should be on every network.

www.n2h2.com

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