Holy Crap: Truth from Microsoft

Slashdot points us to coverage of a Microsoft exec discussing the folly of workplace web blocks:

Jobseekers will think twice about employers who lock down work internet access, a senior Microsoft executive said today.

“These kids are saying: forget it! I don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to work at a place where I can’t be freely online during the day,” said Anne Kirah, Microsoft Senior Design Anthropologist.

“People that I meet are saying this to me every day, all over the world.”


People were increasingly making use of anonymous proxies that couldn’t be easily blocked by corporate firewalls, bringing in their own wireless broadband services for use with a personal laptop or with a work PC or accessing instant messaging via mobile phones and PDAs. […] “Bill Gates said years ago that if you worry about internet productivity, you’re worrying about people stealing pens from your stationery cupboard… there are bigger things to worry about.”

Security risks are one thing, but the quest to block every conceivable nonwork website or protocol is ultimately wrongheaded and silly. Yes, some of your employees will slack off reading sites (like this one) or chatting with friends, but at the end of the day you can tell the productive types from the slackers. Weed out those who take too many liberties and don’t get their work done, and don’t worry about your productive team members reading ESPN.

People dislike being treated like children, and react accordingly. Kirah makes another point: that people who’ve grown up with IM and related technologies will view employers who resist the usage of them on “productivity grounds” to be bizarre dinosaurs — and they’ll be right.

Over the years, we’ve been on many corporate campuses with a wide variety of Internet policies. On the whole, we found smarter, happier and more productive employees in places that didn’t care if you took a break to read The Onion once in a while.

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