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In the office? You can't access the Net
Govindkrishna Seshan | November 29, 2006
It's been a tough day for Rupali Patil. The 24-year-old media planner has been at her keyboard for nearly nine hours. She has a few minutes to catch her breath before beginning on the next project.
Patil knows exactly how to unwind -- she'll log on to online game zones like games2win.com and miniclip.com or just sign into her favourite social networking site, before turning back to her documents.
At least, that's what she would have done if her office administration hadn't installed a firewall in the computer network. All "fun" sites are now off-limits.
Patil's employer isn't alone, of course. HR consultants point out that seven in 10 organisations allow their employees only limited access to the Internet.
HR heads of most large-sized corporations will tell you that it's not just a question of productivity - unmonitored use of the Internet could have implications for business confidentiality as well.
Also, downloading music and games reduces the speed of the Internet connection for others in the office, if there's limited bandwidth available.
Of course, the productivity issue is still the most serious. Research in the UK already points out that most people spend over two hours everyday dealing with interruptions from email, calls and colleagues.
If they started playing games or chatting online, their usefulness would lessen further. Shiv Agrawal, CEO of HR consultancy firm ABC Consultants, agrees.
"Internet usage needs to be restricted, as some people may visit pornography sites or game excessively. Since companies can't be seen playing favourites with their employees, most of them use firewalls."
So what do companies do? While the Bharti group has installed a firewall, IT major Infosys restricts the use of the Net itself. Entry-level software engineers are allowed access to the Internet for only two hours a day: personal email is allowed at that time, but no messenger and social networking sites. Senior engineers can use the Net during the day, but even they don't have unlimited access.
All of which is great for the organisation, but what about employees who could do with a little R&R? "Employees in most organisations these days spend 12-14 hours in office. If made to work on the trot, their decision-making ability, output and productivity will see definite drops," says Purvi Sheth, vice president at HR consultancy Shilputsi.
Hewlett Packard, for instance, has a gymnasium and swimming pool at its Bangalore centre; ICICI Bank has a fully-equipped gym; the Bharti Group has a basketball court, apart from organising darts contests and quizzes.
Says Rajinder Matharu, general manager, HR, Bharti, "This is a high-pressure environment and money alone is no longer a motivator. Such initiatives provide a better connect with employees and increase our value proposition as an employer."
Another option is an employee portal or an Intranet site. FMCG major Godrej Consumer Products operates a portal that offers small games, riddles and puzzles to employees, apart from offering its people access to a jogging track, table tennis, carom and chess.
Vashi-based BPO Trac Mail, too, uses this method. It also has a separate "cybercafe" near the canteen where employees can check personal mail and play games - but only during their breaks.
Don't these initiatives also reduce productivity? ABC's Agrawal smiles. "Since these zones are separate, employees can spend only limited time here because their breaks will be noticed by seniors and colleagues."Patil's employer hasn't yet installed a pool or a basketball court. Until that happens, a coffee break will probably mean just that.