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Instant messaging at work - should you block it?

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The question that we are going to address in this article is whether or not you should block instant messaging at work. So, instant messaging at work: should you block it? Initially you might automatically say yes, of course I'm going to block instant messaging at work! It's a huge waste of time! But let's examine the issues that you have to take into consideration before you decide whether or not you are going to block instant messaging at work so that your employees can or can't make better use of their time.

There have been a number of studies made during the last few years on the effects of programs like instant messaging, email, online games such as poker, chess, solitaire, freecell, hearts, blackjack, and more, on the workplace. Employees spend incredible amounts of time using these different online activities. They take twenty minute breaks to play hearts. They spend two out of each and every twenty minutes or so instant messaging their spouses, the other coworkers, their friends, their family, and things like that. Maybe they spend time on MySpace, updating their own profile and looking at other people's profiles. The point is, your employees are not spending all of their time at work doing actual work. They are doing a whole lot of other things while they are sitting at their desks.

All of this time spent on online programs, instant messaging, MySpace, email, and other non work related things ends up costing you, the employer, a whole lot of money. How is it costing you money, you ask? Well, to put it bluntly, time is money. You are playing your employees a certain amount of money based on the assumption that they will put in work for a certain amount of time. Whether your employees are on a yearly contract, or whether you pay them by the hour, the point is that there is a connection between money and the amount of time that people are working. So if the people in your office or your workplace or your business are not spending the amount of time actually working that you expect them to, then you're losing money because you end up paying your employees for something that wasn't done.

Well, probably automatically your mind jumps to the conclusion that you should block instant messaging at work. There are a number of ways that you can do this. There are a number of programs, a number of different things that you can do with your network and with your server that will block instant messaging. The idea is that employee productivity will immediately be enhanced if you remove one of the biggest wastes of time and distractions that is available to your employees. Take away the problem, and immediately you will have increased productivity.

Before you take this step of blocking instant messaging at work so that your employees can't use it any longer, there are a few other things that you need to think about. There are actually potential benefits to having something like instant messaging available at work. While it's obvious that your employees are doing something other than working, you also might want to consider the fact that instant messaging is a release that can help keep employees from becoming burned out during the workday. The opportunity to do something other than work can actually help keep employees refreshed and help stave off fatigue. Furthermore, if you end up banning and blocking instant messaging at work, then you have to prepared for employee resentment. Your employees will feel like they are not trusted, that they are not seen as responsible enough to actually get work done. These are all questions that you have to consider before you actually block instant messaging at work. What are the benefits? That your employees won't have the potential distraction. What are the downsides? That your employees will become easily fatigued and still not work, and also that they will resent you as the owner and/or manager. The best option might be to watch carefully to make sure that employees don't spend an overwhelming amount of time on instant messaging, and to talk to them if you notice a problem.

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Posted by DF
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