Do you spend part of your workday blogging, communicating on IM, listening to your iPod, or taking pictures with your camera phone? If so, here's a news article that you don't want to miss: "Time to crack down on tech at work?"
The article poses the following question: Should employers take steps to potentially control employee use of the aforementioned gadgets and communications technologies? Each item is discussed separately...
1. Blogging - Clearly, there are benefits to blogging, but the article also advocates the need for a company blogging policy. Blogging has become a big part of my news reporting at TechRepublic, but I don't think we have a formal (or written) blogging policy in place. There have been a few times when I've wondered, "Is this pushing the envelope a little too far?" Usually I ask a coworker or my manager their opinions before I actually post a blog with questionable content. I also think that most TR members that read my blog have come to expect a little more conversational, off-the-cuff information or opinions. My vote is to keep blogs unleashed, leaving room for personal flair, as long as the security of the company isn't jeopardized.
2. IM - Here again, the article discusses the need for companies to develop clear policies concerning the use of IM. "Companies have to struggle with how their document and data retention policies are drafted to encompass IMing." Not only is some IM a security threat, but users can also waste away their day chatting about non-work-related things. However, for some companies, IM is a quick and easy way for employees to contact each other. For example, the Content Team at TechRepublic (this group consists of my manager, four co-workers, and myself) must be logged into Yahoo Messenger throughout the entire workday. IM is a great solution for communicating with each other, especially since part of the team works from remote locations.
3. iPod - Does your iPod distract you from actually getting your work done? This article claims that it can happen! While I don't own an iPod, I do listen to music throughout the majority of the day from Yahoo Music. What's even worse is that I have the music videos playing in the background, instead of listening to the straight music feed. Every once in a while I'll hear a really good song, and so I'll watch a piece of the video before going back to my task at hand. There are other times when the work I'm doing requires me to turn the music off. I think each individual is different - some can work with white noise in the background and some can't. Personally, music makes my day more enjoyable, and it would be a shame if restrictions were put on when and what I could listen to at my workstation (with my headphones on, of course).
4. Camera phone - As you could probably guess, camera phones are under suspicion of revealing trade secrets, etc. According to the article, they also might make your coworkers uncomfortable: "Furthermore, camera phones can be used to photograph other workers in embarrassing situations and cause other employees to feel a loss of privacy." Who would do something like that?! Ok, I confess... when I first got my camera phone, I was click-happy. I took pictures of coworkers through office blinds, behind their backs in the cube farm, and sometimes they even posed. I think that I showed everyone their photos - except one of a coworker playing a computer game. I really cracked myself up over that one! However, I lost my phone and all of those pictures. Yes, I have a new camera phone now, but I no longer am giddy with excitement over the ability to take pictures from my phone.
Does your company have policies that control employee use of blogs, IM, iPod (music), or camera phones? What are your thoughts about these and other gadgets and communications technologies in the workplace?
Sonja Thompson started at TechRepublic in October 1999. She is a former Senior Editor at TechRepublic.