From open layouts to ping-pong tables in breakrooms, there are a lot of distractions in modern offices. While it's important to promote work-life balance, it can be frustrating as an employer to see employees waste valuable work hours.
Some employers block distracting websites to combat unproductivity, but other business owners believe restricting web use could have negative side effects.
"No one can – or should – be working eight hours straight a day," said Jonathan Prichard, founder and CEO of MattressInsider.com. "I have worked with many professionals who find their productivity increase when they schedule periodic breaks to use the web at their leisure while at work."
Other business owners decide to block websites for security or legal reasons. Regardless of your reason, here are four different types of websites you should consider blocking on business devices.
Editor's note: Looking for information on employee monitoring software? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.
1. Inappropriate websites
The most important websites to block are ones that are inappropriate, offensive and could land you in legal trouble. Unlike social media, there is no reason why employees should be on adult or gambling websites. Along with being unprofessional and inappropriate, these websites can pose a security risk to your network and devices.
"These are offensive websites that we block to reduce legal liability in the workplace," said Nishank Khanna, vice president of growth at Utility. "Things like pornography, gambling websites, etc."
2. Social media
Business owners are split on whether it's a good idea to block social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Social media is a clear distraction – 65 percent of employees believe Facebook hurts productivity, according to Udemy's 2018 Workplace Distraction Report.
However, some business owners believe blocking these websites could paint employers as micromanagers or like they don't trust their employees. "Instead of boxing in your employees by blocking social media, as a leader you should focus on results," Khanna said. "As long as your people get the work done, there is no need to fret over them viewing social media accounts."
Overall, half (51 percent) of employees surveyed said their employers restrict social media websites.
3. Video streaming
When you're invested in a TV show, it can be hard to turn it off, and some people are streaming shows during work hours.
"As recently as 2017, Netflix reported that 37 percent of its users admitted watching the streaming service at work," said Ben Bowman, content development lead at Softonic. "That means if you aren't killing time with Stranger Things, one of the co-workers on either side of you probably is."
When your employees are streaming movies, not a lot of work is getting done. If you notice employees watching videos, you may want to consider blocking websites such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO and YouTube.
4. Online shopping
While it might seem obvious to block adult websites, some business owners have decided to block shopping websites as well. It's easy for employees to get sucked into online shopping, and blocking websites such as Amazon, Target and Poshmark might improve employee productivity.
"We found that our employees were spending far too much time on these types of websites," said Matthew Ross, co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard. "After auditing the data, you wouldn't believe how much time employees were wasting. In some cases, certain employees were spending over four hours a day surfing the net and shopping online."
The bottom line
If you decide to restrict certain websites or categories from work devices, you should be transparent with your employees and explain what websites are being blocked and why. You should also create an internet use policy explaining your decision.