Friday, August 28, 2009

Unchain the Office Computers!

As someone used to using Firefox, I was really disapointed when I found out I would have to use IE6 on my work computer. Have you ever gotten used to something (tabbed browsing in this case) and then had that removed? It's painful and breeds resentment, let me tell you. Our staff were also admonished for spending too much time on the Washington Post website. That's the equivalent of telling an academic they can't use JSTOR. Anyway, on to Farhad Manjoo's excellent article (Slate):

Computers, like airplanes, can be dangerous things—they can breed viruses and other malware, they can consume enormous resources meant for other tasks, and they're portals to great expanses of procrastination. So why not lock down workplace computers?

Here's why: The restrictions infantilize workers—they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively. In the information age, most companies' success depends entirely on the creativity and drive of their workers. IT restrictions are corrosive to that creativity—they keep everyone under the thumb of people who have no idea which tools we need to do our jobs but who are charged with deciding anyway.

[...] Indeed, there's no empirical evidence that unfettered access to the Internet turns people into slackers at work. The research shows just the opposite. Brent Corker, a professor of marketing at the University of Melbourne, recently tested how two sets of workers—one group that was blocked from using the Web and another that had free access—perform various tasks. Corker found that those who could use the Web were 9 percent more productive than those who couldn't. Why? Because we aren't robots; people with Web access took short breaks to look online while doing their work, and the distractions kept them sharper than the folks who had no choice but to keep on task.

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