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I believe that the employer pays employees their salaries to keep working for seven or eight hours daily, and he didn't agree, while signing the contract, that there is few hours set aside daily for chat with friends, talk in mobile, checking Facebook, etc.

And I feel that doing these activities is not ethical and makes employees lose focus while working.

How do I convince my employees to stop doing that themselves?

And note: Of course employees should take a break or multiple breaks while working and do whatever they want in this break, but I am talking about the habit of keeping chat and Facebook open all the work time.

UPDATE For all who got me wrong and thought that I want slaves to work eight hours without looking right or left: Sure I am not this, man, and we are not in the career which needs that approach.

I am talking about keeping chatting and using Facebook all the time. For example, if the worker is doing his work and keep Facebook and two or three chat clients open and are getting notifications all day long.

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What is your role in this? –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 29 '12 at 15:02
    
@ThorbjørnRavnAndersen see their profile Founder and CTO –  Jarrod Roberson May 29 '12 at 15:47
    
@JarrodRoberson ah, the CTO who wants to see people working all the time. In that case Michael Durrant has very, very good advise for a newly minted technical leader. –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 29 '12 at 16:38
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does the work get done? –  acolyte Jun 20 '12 at 13:41
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please answer the question, does the work get done? –  Yuck Dec 31 '12 at 3:40
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10 Answers 10

up vote 64 down vote accepted

As always, focus first on the work. Is it getting done? On-Time? Quality OK? Same as others?

Remember that everyone takes breaks. For some it's a smoke, for others a trip to get coffee, for others a few minutes on Facebook.

Be very careful about affecting morale in this area.

It's incredibly hard not to manage this (or "micro-manage"), but looking at the bigger picture and focusing on the work are best.

One other question - does said employee ever do work or checking work email at home? This is another area where one activity can compensate another.

Please note that although there are folks who can work 7-8 hours straight without any real breaks that does not work for a lot of people. Many work in a 30-40 minute sprint, then a 5-10 minute break, and then back in. For those folks, taking these short breaks may actually be essential to their productivity! *Thanks ssbrewster for noting this). See also http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/ for more information on this approach.

Another note on keeping IM's and Facebook 'open' during the day: I like to compare this to having to say, having a phone with me at all times to answer work calls anywhere or checking work email at home. Those practices have become very 'standard' in the industry today now so I think turnaround is also fair.

Finally, I would consider having Facebook electronically blocked at work for all unless and until it's part of your business model. However, as ssbrewster noted, most folks have smartphones and other devices they can use anyway if that's what they want to do.

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+1 Quality answer. Although it should be noted that Facebook and YouTube are fairly unusual in the amount of bandwidth they churn through. If people are going to be free to use them, they should also be made aware of how to use them responsibly. –  pdr May 16 '12 at 15:11
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Good answer and is it also really worth locking facebook, twitter, etc down when lost of people have smartphones where they can access those sites anyway? If the work is getting done to the quality that's required then it shouldn't matter if people take short breaks now and then, in fact that is more likely to benefit productivity than not. –  ssbrewster May 17 '12 at 10:57
    
+1 Good points ssbrewster! I added them to my answer! –  Michael Durrant May 17 '12 at 11:55
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@ssbrewster, it is worth locking down those sites for the sheer amount of the company's bandwidth they consume. Our employees use web applications all day long, too many people on Facebook/You Tube and the applications they depend on to do their work suffer. That's why we block them. The company shouldn't have to buy extra bandwidth to accomodate people playing at work. If they want to access on their smartphones, then they aren't using up my bandwidth. Plus we have gotten viruses from sites that employees had no business being on in the first place. There are good reasons to limit access. –  HLGEM Jun 11 '12 at 20:38
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We block imgur at work, so I can't see most of the images on SO. Guess what I do? gmail.com > sms chat > paste link > look at phone. I've done that occasionally for "personal" sites that are blocked, when they belong to folks like Ned Batchelder and I need some answers on their blog. –  Wayne Werner Jun 17 '12 at 12:29
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IMO, banning these sites will not help, because it works on the symptoms, not on the cause.

In my experience, people will go surfing the Internet if they are bored by their work or if they need a little break from their work. If it is the second reason, I would not make an issue of it. If it is the first case, you might have deeper issues, which will have a lot to do with the kind of workplace and the fit between intellectual challenge and intellectual capability of your personel.

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+1 for this (competing) answer. Imagine a workplace where people keep saying "damn, I am so busy on the cool project I'm on that I love so much that I never get a moment to chat and keep up with friends outside work! (while at work that is). –  Michael Durrant May 17 '12 at 14:47
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If you are the employer then simply tell them that these things are not allowed on company time. If this is a clear policy and they agreed to it when they signed up you can enforce the contract and start disciplinary procedures against the offenders. However, this could be seen to be heavy handed.

They can chat etc. while on breaks or at lunch, but otherwise they should stick to work related activities.

You can block software from your network - but if you do it might be sensible to provide an area, much like an Internet cafe, where your employees can use Facebook etc. so that they don't try to circumvent the bans you put in place.

One thing to bear in mind though is that no one can really concentrate for 7 or 8 hours a day and they should be taking regular breaks. Allowing employees to use "personal" websites etc. is a form of break and you may find productivity decline if you enforce these rules.

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+1 for the "internet cafe" idea. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 16 '12 at 15:14
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner - I've used it before –  ChrisF May 16 '12 at 15:16
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner, I wish we did that at my work place. Though honestly I'd probably spend about half as much time there as at my desk because our proxy filters several high-profile tech blogs out because they're "personal sites". Or worse, folks who blog about tech stuff on Livejournal, falling under 'dating or social networking'. –  Wayne Werner Jun 17 '12 at 12:32
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Are you talking about salaried employees? If so I take issue with the statement "[T]he employer pays employees their salaries to keep working for 8 or 7 hours daily"

Unless we are talking hourly employees, the employer is paying their salaries for them to perform a task or job, not put in hours.

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Possibly a special case, but even salaried employees might be recording hours worked for billing or internal purposes. If so then it might be problematic to record an hour as having been spent on a project (still worse on a client) when in fact most of that hour was spent chatting to your friends about your weekend :-) –  Steve Jessop Jul 14 at 1:03
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You will NEVER convince anyone who is actually getting their work done that using social media, making personal calls/IM's/SMS, or doing a number of things not related to work while at work is in any way "unethical".

Of course, it is totally possible to enforce arbitrary draconian "rules" but the trade-off is that your employees will then walk out the door one second after closing time and not think about work until they sit down one second before start of business the next day. That might be fine for piece work, call-centers, or factory work, but it is not effective for knowledge workers.

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+1 for the last sentence there. I've worked in some IT companies. Whenever some new manager start blocking sites, people started saying they felt like they were working in a sweatshop. –  user10483 Oct 21 '13 at 15:22
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I believe that the employer pay employees their salaries to keep working for 8 or 7 hours daily and he didn't agree while signing the contract that there is few hours daily for chat with friends, talk in mobile, checking Facebook, etc.

I work for an organization that spends large sums of money to encourage its employees to take multiple breaks in a given period of time. Doing the same action hundreds of times a day can be stressful to the body structure of an employee. Taking a few minutes to stretch and walk around is again highly encouraged.

And I see that doing these stuff is not ethical and make employees lose focus while working.

What you describe isn't really an ethical delima. You simple disagree with some people's work standards. I would argue if more then half the people in the office does this, then its an acceptable community practice, and thus is ethical.

How to convince my employees to stop doing that themselves?

Unless you are in a position to implement the change I would stay out of it.

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I think there is a mistake in your approach. Lately, it seems that may think about working as "selling time". You come in, sit on your ass for 8 hours and leave and get paid. From the employer's point of view same is encouraged, you ask them to stay 8 hours and no less.

However, you are no paying for time, you are paying for results. If they produce results in time, it's their business if they waste their free time with Facebook or other things. In this case I would encourage them to go home and interact with other people, instead of wasting company resources.

But, if they don't produce results (and those targets are reasonable), the action to take is simple, discuss with them, explain that the results are not satisfactory and they need to step up. You may casually suggest cutting their Facebook time.

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This isn't true for every job; manufacturing jobs expects lots of results in a fixed amount of time, but not more or less than eight hours. –  Andy Jun 29 '13 at 1:03
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People I work with frequently (and I mean very frequently) check updates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. The thing is, though, on the flip side, I am frequently emailed by my boss "after hours" to which he expects a somewhat immediate response.

The point is, at least in my profession, "after hours" doesn't really exist anymore. If "after hours" has gone by the wayside, then so does "business hours," and employees should feel free to squeeze elements of their personal life in wherever they can.

The guy who wrote "Be careful to not affect morale" got it absolutely right. So to answer your question, I don't think you should convince employees that IM/social networking on hours is unethical, because for many professions, I don't think that it is.

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you've trained your boss to expect immediate responses because that's what you've been giving him. the real question is why do you check your work email after hours –  Yuck Dec 31 '12 at 3:37
    
This is possibly a cultural thing; in many professions in the US the line between personal and business time is blurred to the point of non-existence. I've noticed that there seems to be a strong line between the two in Europe, though. Sad fact is that in the US, unless you're working shiftwork at a place like Wal-Mart or McD's, the expectation is for you to be connected or available at all hours. –  Bart Silverstrim Jan 18 '13 at 23:07
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It depends on the type of performance you expect from your employees:

a) If your people are engaged with heavy intellectual work, requiring a lot of concentration/ creativity/ analysis/ etc - then you have either not hired the right people or something is deeply wrong in your relationship with them and they do not have true motivation.

I cannot imagine a person in love with his job, engrossed by the challenges of work to have time or desire for idling on IM/ Facebook. (I am excluding, of course, the occasional/ relaxation visits, which add up to no more than 10 minutes a day total.)

b) If your employees are expected to do mundane work or meet challenges of average difficulty, it would be natural to expect average professionalism from them. In this case you could set clear performance objectives, then introduce penalties when objectives are not met. Your employees would come themselves to the observation that extra time spent on Facebook or IM is not a financially viable strategy.

In general, my experience tells me that it is grave mediocrity behind such behaviour, even with type b) employees.

If people hold the mindset that the workplace is nasty place and you just have to put up with those eight hours and generally get away with work whenever possible, then you can't do anything but replace them. Changing a person's mindset, attitudes, values, etc is a very complicated and precarious process which might never succeed.

Raise the issue once, tell them it is unethical in your eyes. Those who have a sense of professionalism would take note and change rather soon; those averse to responsibility and honesty, would simulate a change and after some time return to their natural mode of behaviour. Get rid of them.

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There is no need to convince yours employees, simply set your own rules, ban the sites.

Banning Facebook, IM or personnel emails is quite legitimate and does waste a lot of time. Many organizations ban them, there is no frowning upon.

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Possibly - but see how long your best developers remain with you after you do... –  Matt Aug 21 '12 at 23:01
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