The internet has ushered unprecedented levels of efficiency and communication into the world of business. The internet can reduce operating costs and downtime while creating new opportunities. However, in the age of Facebook and Pinterest, it can also be a tempting time waster for your employees. Especially in businesses where employees do the majority of their work at a computer, you will want security that you're employees are not spending time and your dollar on miscellaneous websites.

Set Internet Usage Expectations for Employees

The first way to manage internet usage is to create expectations for your work environment. Expectations, along with relevant legal permissions, can be outlined in an employee handbook. If there is mutual respect for internet policies between employees and employers the amount of time wasted on the internet will be minimal. Of course, as opposed to hard-line policies this runs the risk of some usage. An employee checking their personal email, Facebook, fantasy team, or where Captain America is playing next every once in awhile won't make a huge dent in productivity - and may actually reduce stress levels. However leniency has the ability to spiral into inefficiency.

Monitor Web Usage

Even if decide not to actively block sites from employees, you can still enforce an internet usage policy by monitoring web usage. This can be done with many free utilities including OpenDNS. While you won't need to sift through chat logs and internet history all the time, you can still point out viewed web traffic during a performance evaluation or everyday checkup. You can also take a psychological approach to monitoring web usage. For instance, placing "Big Brother is Watching You" signs around a workspace will make any employee think twice before they stumble over to StumbleUpon.

Why You Might Not Want to Block Specific Sites

There are several reasons why you wouldn't want to block web traffic. First, you never know when a website is going to be relevant to your business operations. Also, with more and more businesses embracing social media promotion - even through their employee's personal accounts - blocking access to social networking sites will prevent this functionality. Finally, not having certain sites available during lunch hours or break times can be frustrating and demoralizing for employees.

How to Block Websites From Employees

Keeping the above in mind, there are still times when you will want to block access to certain sites from your employees. Many options, aside from subscribing to a service, will require you to actively maintain a blacklist.

  1. Router settings. Since all of your office internet usage probably runs through one or several routers, you can block domains in the security settings of your router. This can be done by logging into the router with an administrator account.
  2. Browser Security settings. This method is less effective as it requires you to change the settings on each computer. This gets messy once you try to update blacklists outside of the initial image or deal with employee laptops.
  3. Content filters. This option will probably require you to pay some money, but it has the advantage of taking the work out of your hands. A content filter - one is maintained by OpenDNS - can be customized to blacklist both specific sights and general categories of sites, such as games, pornography, and social media.