October 30, 2008, 12:09 PM — Eavesdropping (physically, not electronically) is wonderful. You can learn amazing things.
One of my friends kept his ears open during a business networking meeting, and overheard two young women talking. They were in their mid-twenties and both worked for non-profit agencies in Indianapolis.
Their topic of conversation? Facebook. Not surprising for people in their twenties, right?
The sad part was the time they spend on Facebook during the workday. One woman admitted spending at least a third of her day, over two hours, on Facebook. The other admitted spending even more time. That's a lot of wasted time.
I believe managers who allow employees to connect to personal e-mail and peruse a few personal Web sites improve morale in the office. But I believe employees who spend hours per day playing on Facebook are stealing parts of their salary.
If you have 10 people in your office, and each spends two plus hours on Facebook, you effectively only have seven and a half people working in your office. How many companies have hired new people, thinking the staff they had couldn't keep up with the work, when actually Facebook and other Web friends were the cause of the poor productivity?
Management must pay attention to what employees are doing. Small businesses have a tough time with this, because managers in small businesses rarely have management training. And since big companies with trained managers often do a terrible job managing employees, small companies may be forgiven for thinking they have no hope of controlling employees.
Do two things. First, revive that old "management by walking around" idea. Employees who know you may peek over their shoulder at any moment spent less time on Facebook, fantasy football, and dating Web sites.
Second, check your router logs and see who goes to what Web sites most often. Print out a bit of the log file, put that into the employees employment folder, and have a chat with that employee. You might also up their work load a bit. If they have two plus hours a day to play on the Web, they can do more work.