Friday, 13 April 2007

Blogging at work

I was reading Real Lawyers Have Blogs on blogging policies for companies. As he says, most companies now do have (or should have) internet and email use policies, and it's not a terribly far leap from there to a blogging policy. I do wonder, though, about how this would be implemented.

I'm of two minds at the moment about internet and email policies - though there is a 'best practice' notional idea of what should be allowed and what shouldn't, what actually is and isn't allowed is a completely different thing. Across the law firms that I have worked at, and through talking to friends at other firms, I have encountered a wide range of policies, from seemingly complete freedom to install programs, chat, email, browse and generally do what you like, to middling policies that restrict 'inappropriate' sites and don't allow installation of programs or chat protocols, but do allow pretty much anything else, to the highly draconian, no personal emails at all through work channels, no webmail access, and severely restricted internet access.

Email and internet use at work is a tricky thing. You don't want your employees wasting their time when they could be being productive, but on the other hand, it is by now unreasonable to assume that all internet use is friviolous. I feel more productive, and certainly more relaxed at work, when I have the freedom to check my RSS feeds, and my ebay auctions, my webmail and my bank account. Indeed, I feel that internet use is so closely woven into many peoples lives now, that it is more productive to allow them some freedom of internet use. It seems, to an extent, to come down to how much trust an employer has in its employees, and how an emplyees time is perceived - whether your workplace feels that it owns all of your working hours, or whether you are trusted to be able to monitor your own productivity and workflows.

However, mostly, issues between employee and employer don't crop up until it becomes a major issue - massive loss of productivity through internet use, malicious emails or attachments that break the server, and blogs that harm the reputation of the company. These are, obviously, not the ideal, and should be dealt with appropriately.

I do worry that there may be more cases such as the one that Real Lawyers cites, from Hegarty Solicitors where and employee caught updating a blog at work "was disciplined and told that if they continued to write the blog at work they may be later dismissed." (and no, I'm not going to mention how much of this post was written whilst at work – can't be getting myself in trouble now).

Blogging, like all other internet activities, is by no means inherently bad. Indeed, not even all work-related blogging is harmful. Employees can blog, even from work, without harming their productivity, endangering the IT infrastructure of their workplace, or slandering their work. And I very much hope that when employers come to write policies that include the use of blogs, that they realise this. It will be a very sad day indeed if a workplace decides to ban Blogger (or Wordpress, or Facebook, or Myspace, or Livejournal, or whatever), because they perceive all blogging to be harmful.

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