Employers should tolerate their staff using online forums to shop and socialise at work because they make up for it at home, according to a leading academic.
Jeffrey Cole, a director at the Centre for the Digital Future, says his studies show that for every hour employees spend on non-work activities in the office, they devote an additional three hours to work-related tasks at home.
“The line between work and home is completely blurred and it is blurred to the advantage of the employer,” Cole says.
“We see that for every hour an employee spends at the office doing personal things, they are spending three hours at home doing something related to their job.”
According to Cole, employers needn’t be overly concerned about their employees’ activities during work hours, particularly when technology enables them to take work home.
“The research that I do suggests [employers] should just close their mouths and not say a word,” Cole says.
Martin Nally, founder of recruitment firm hranywhere, says the research should serve as a warning for employers to focus on set outcomes rather than monitor employees’ activities within work hours.
“Don’t be concerned about face time; the amount of time people spend in the office,” Nally says.
“Be more focused on how effective they are and how effective the objectives you set them are. How they achieve [those outcomes] is up to them.”
Nally says there is an opportunity for start-ups to “break the paradigm of the nine to five [work day] and allow flexibility.”
“But set really, really high standards in terms of expected outcomes and give people recognition for the achievement of those outcomes,” he says.
“The issue in a start-up business is to set the rules from the get-go and explain to employees what those rules are.”
“Don’t make it a taboo topic – make it an open topic. Have a chat and set some rules. There are three words that are really important – communicate, communicate and communicate.”