When employees are working on your dime, you want to make sure they're not wasting time. If you're worried about productivity or that your employees may be spending work hours on inappropriate websites, you may want to consider blocking some websites from employee use.
However, before you take action and start restricting access, you should consider the consequences. Some business owners don't believe blocking websites is the best idea.
"The quickest and most effective way to demotivate employees is by not trusting them," said Jonathan Prichard, founder and CEO of MattressInsider. "Restricting access paints you as a micromanager and will 100 percent reduce employee satisfaction."
Stephen Hart, CEO of Cardswitcher, agrees that blocking every non-work-related website is counterproductive. "It's natural that employees are going to use the internet to slack off occasionally at work, for the odd minute, and these breaks can help to refocus the mind," he added.
Sometimes, though, blocking some websites is necessary. "From a security standpoint, there are sites that pose greater security risks based on their content," said Ralph Labarta, chief technology officer at Engage PEO. "Coincidentally, the sites that pose greater risks are generally aligned with non-work activity – gambling, porn, politics, etc."
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Some business owners also decide to block websites to increase productivity or to ensure employees aren't accessing inappropriate websites on business devices. If you plan to create restrictions, here are a few tips to follow.
1. Be transparent with employees.
If you decide to restrict websites, be transparent with your staff. You should explain what websites and categories you're restricting and why. Your staff will appreciate the transparency and won't waste time contacting IT if they have problems accessing a blocked website.
Labarta recommends also including the information in an internet use policy. "The policy should include a protocol for accessing sites that are blocked but may have a need for legitimate access, a warning that attempting to thwart site restrictions is a violation of the policy, and a warning that all site activities are monitored."
If you're considering blocking social media websites, Prichard recommends creating a social media policy first and only stepping in if a problem arises.
"Instead of restricting access, create a companywide social media policy," he said. "This document should include guidelines for what you expect in terms of time spent on social media sites during office hours. Give them the structure, [and] allow them to make decisions for themselves."
2. Use a browser extension.
The easiest way to block a website or category of websites on Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox is with the browser add-on BlockSite. With this add-on, you can block specific websites such as Facebook, all adult websites in a single click, or URLs that contain specific words.
BlockSite also works on Chrome's incognito mode. If you're worried your employees will access BlockSite to manage blocked websites, you can set up a password to limit access.
3. Use employee monitoring software.
If you want a more extreme solution, you should consider purchasing employee monitoring software. Employee monitoring software can track almost every move your employees take, from how many minutes they are inactive to their keystrokes.
Some of the best employee monitoring software also offers content-filtering features. These features allow you to regulate websites and certain topics, such as weapons, drugs and nudity. You can also block individual websites by manually adding them to the list of prohibited websites. In addition, you can create notifications and alerts that are triggered when an employee browses restricted content. [Interested in employee monitoring software? Check out our Business.com guide.]