Is at desk internet access bad for productivity?

I know a few development companies that do not have internet access at the staff’s desk. Internet access is restricted to separate systems that are shared between multiple people and are in public areas so people can see who’s on and when.

One such company also has a ban on external calls at work, via the work system or your own personal mobile.

I know that these are justified as being for productivity reasons, staff have their distractions removed and live in a vacuum that consists only of known work and known processes.

Aside from security issues, is this really necessary? I appreciate that some people simply cannot resist procrastinating and checking up on their social networks every 1 minute but I’d also argue that at desk Internet access is as important as having electricity to your workstation. We know that it gives us access to an almost infinite array of knowledge, reference, learning, inspiration and also connections to people who can help us solve problems quickly.

Why limit the growth of everyone on your team because 1 person can resist Facebook? How and when do people find time to learn and bring new ideas to work?

I’ve ran a studio and I’m aware of all of the implications of both sides of the story but I believe there’s a compromise that’s easy and almost free to implement. Put a transparent proxy between the internal and external networks and tighten it up bit by bit, but only for those who can’t control themselves.

Generate a real-time report of who’s online, this weeks top downloaders, this weeks top page hits and share it on your intranet. It works wonders and you’ll see the balance restored between having the freedom of at desk access to a sea of knowledge and the few who just cannot control themselves and need to be brought into line.

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