Like a ton of other people who work in offices, I'm blocked from quite a few web sites, many of them social media-related, at work. I do public relations for a large hospital system and I understand security. I get it, we deal with a lot of sensitive information – almost none of which I have access to. I also understand when you have thousands of employees that there is potential for a lot of "lost" time if said employees are playing around on the Internet while at work.
My challenge with not having access is that I monitor media and do media relations for my system and I don't have access to the same information that the reporters do. I also have some employee relations duties and I don't have access to a lot of the sites that might tell me how our folk are feeling. If they post on Facebook, MySpace, or YouTube, I'm out of luck. I can't see what they might have said when I'm at the office. So I look when I'm home after my son's gone to sleep.
Since tracking employee feelings outside the workplace isn't my main function, it's not that big a deal to look while I'm at home. The real problem comes when a reporter asks for something related to a site that is blocked to me. Here's a recap of a recent conversation I had with a reporter:
Reporter: We've found some video on YouTube showing patients being transported by an ambulance service. Can you look at the video and tell me if it's a HIPAA violation?
Me: Um, I don't have access to YouTube and wouldn't comment on another organization; but, I'm happy to direct you to a good resource to help you understand HIPAA.
Reporter: You can't look at YouTube [I'm pretty sure I hear laughter in his voice]?
Me: No, it's a site that is blocked on our system.
Reporter: Wow. So anybody can say anything about your hospital and you won't even know it?
Me: Well, anyone can say anything about our hospital because it's their right to do that. But, no, if I wanted to check from work, I wouldn't know.
Reporter: Hey, if I ever come across anything, I'll let you know!
Me: Gosh. Thanks.
I follow a group of people on Twitter who are so incredibly smart, well informed, and sharing that I'm constantly learning from them via their Tweets. When I first came to this health system, I noticed that Twitter was one of the blocked sites. When I asked our IT guy to see if I could have it added to my "safe" list, he got back to me with this funny answer, "Sherry, Twitter is listed as a 'match making' site, so we can't okay it. I thought you were dating someone?"
Great. So not only was I blocked, the IT guy thinks I'm trying to hook up while at the office. So, now I post to Twitter through text on my personal phone and I read using my company BlackBerry (but can't post through BB because its Java function has been disabled). It's worth it to me to have access to the group I'm following – I learn something almost every day – but it's so convoluted!
If you want another take on the "Blocking" visit Shel Holtz's campaign against corporate blocking. For me, being blocked from sites is a pain but not really a huge hindrance to my work. For a lot of people though, it can be a real strain. Shel's got a great source of information about it on Stop Blocking!
I'm interested to hear your thoughts on blocking. Has blocking been a strain on your professional time? At what point can employees be trusted to not abuse the system by hours of shopping online or chatting with friends?
What do you think?