New research sounds warning over balancing employee productivity and security

There always needs to be a fine line between ensuring productivity within employees and keeping them happy. Take the story earlier this month regarding an employee in Japan who was publicly admonished for ‘habitually’ leaving his desk a few minutes early for lunch.

Yet new figures from Spiceworks have found that employees spend up to 26 days per year on websites unrelated to their job.

According to the data, which polled 645 respondents from companies across North America and Europe, among organisations which did not restrict internet access, more than half (58%) of employees spend at least four hours per week on websites unrelated to their job. This equates to 26 workdays per year – and in terms of monetary output, it would be approximately $4,500 per year wasted taking into account the median US salary of $45,812.

In terms of organisations who restrict websites, 85% restrict illegal and unethical or otherwise inappropriate sites, while 61% restrict online dating sites. The numbers go down when it comes to social media (38%), personal instant messaging services (34%), while a quarter of organisations restrict video and music streaming services.

Companies also look to block social media when possible. More than a third block Facebook (36%), Snapchat (36%) and Instagram (35%), while Twitter (32%) and Pinterest (31%) are at just below a third. Perhaps surprisingly, 16% of organisations block LinkedIn.

However productivity is not the only concern with regards to filtering – or lack of it. Spiceworks also warns of security concerns. Over the past 12 months 38% of organisations polled said they experienced one or more security incidents through the use of non-work-related websites on the corporate network.

The research argues that while effective blocking and filtering takes out the majority of the threats, IT professionals continually balancing between security and enabling greater employee productivity can’t be expected to catch everything.

“It’s clear that web filtering is effective at both keeping employees on task and reducing security risks. But in a world where IT pros are constantly performing a balancing act between protecting networks and enabling employees to do their jobs, sometimes it’s not possible to block every potentially dangerous site, as threats can exist anywhere,” Peter Tsai, Spiceworks senior technology analyst, wrote in a blog post.

“Regardless of the mechanism employed, if there’s one takeaway from this report, it should be that like all security solutions, web filtering to restrict access to certain sites and services isn’t a cure-all. Instead, these technologies are only one part in a layered security strategy,” Tsai added. “And because it can be impractical or even impossible to lock down all sites, end user training users will always be important and a last line of defence, especially as cybercriminals find new ways to get around protective security measures.”

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