By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s employers are struggling to keep employees on-task, despite the lures of social media.
The International Data Corp. estimates that nationally, 30 to 40 percent of employees’ Internet activity is not business-related, which results in millions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
Some employers have resorted to Internet monitoring and filtering software to track what websites employees are accessing, in an effort to increase both network security and employee productivity.
Maggie McPhee, Human Resources Group of West Michigan director in Grand Rapids, said, “It distracts employees because it’s just one more thing they have to deal with. Not only do we have to check phones for personal calls, but the Internet, cellphones and iPads.”
McPhee said companies should use monitoring systems to check why employees are not getting their work done. “I don’t hear very many people saying they’re doing that to their employees, but it would certainly be a time saver.”
John Klein, director of information technology at Grand Valley State University, said he has been working on computers for 35 years, and being aware of the Internet is part of his job.
“In information technology, a lot of our services involve Internet distractions,” Klein said, “I don’t see the distraction as hugely time consuming. The little bit of distraction can be helpful when you need a break.”
Klein also said his department does not restrict the websites he visits, and companies should keep the Internet unrestricted so workers can view them on their breaks and lunchtimes. “What employees do in their free time is totally up to them.”
Most manufacturing companies do not filter Internet access, Michigan Manufacturers Association director of human resource policy Delaney McKinley said.
McKinley said companies “are turning more toward how they can utilize social media for marketing opportunities.” The association’s own employees can access social media websites.
“It’s something companies need to decide on a case-to-case basis,” McKinley said, “Advanced manufacturing folks are on computers a lot more than others.”
A 2010 survey by Palo Alto Networks found that 96 percent of employees using computers on the job use Facebook, 93 percent use Twitter, 86 percent use LinkedIn and 79 percent use MySpace.
Last year, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that prohibits employer access to social media accounts, making Michigan the sixth state to ban bosses from asking for workers’ Facebook and Twitter passwords. Violators face fines of up to $1,000.
By CORTNEY ERNDT