How limiting non-work related web use affects security and productivity

Spiceworks has announced the results of a new survey examining the use of web filtering in the workplace and the implications of restricting certain online behaviours. The results indicate among organisations that don’t restrict non-work related web use, most employees (58 percent) spend at least four hours per week, the equivalent of 26 workdays per year, on websites unrelated to their job. In other words, based on the median U.S. salary of $45,812, these organisations are paying full-time employees approximately $4,500 per year to spend 10 percent of their time consuming non-work-related web content.

Among organisations that restrict one or more website on the corporate network, the results show 85 percent restrict illegal and unethical/inappropriate sites, and 61 percent restrict online dating sites. Fewer organisations restrict social media channels (38 percent) or personal instant messaging services (34 percent), and about a quarter of organisations restrict video streaming services, music streaming services, and online forums/communities. Additionally, 21 percent restrict personal webmail services, and 13 percent restrict online retail sites.

 

Blocking social media channels can help keep employees on task

Among social media channels, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are most commonly blocked on corporate networks: 36 percent block Facebook, 36 percent block Snapchat, and 35 percent block Instagram. Additionally, 32 percent block Twitter, and 31 percent block Pinterest, but only 16 percent block LinkedIn.

Although social media channels are only blocked by approximately one-third of organizations, the results indicate productivity levels in the workplace can peak when social media is restricted on the corporate network. In organizations that block or limit the use of social media, only 30 percent of employees spend more than four hours per week on non-work-related-sites compared to nearly twice as many employees (58 percent) in organizations that don’t block social media.

 

Large organisations restrict more websites than their smaller counterparts

When examining the data by company size, the results of non-work related web use show large businesses are more likely to restrict internet activity, including social media channels, personal instant messaging services, music streaming sites, video streaming sites, and personal webmail. In fact, 96 percent of large businesses?with more than 1,000?employees restrict?at least one online property, compared to 92 percent of mid-size businesses with 100 to 999 employees and?81 percent of small businesses with one to 99 employees.

As a result, the results suggest more employees are staying on task in larger organizations. In large companies, only 28 percent of employees spend more than four hours per week on websites unrelated to their job, compared to 45 percent in mid-size businesses and 51 percent in small businesses.

 

Security incidents primarily stem from personal webmail and social media sites

In addition to productivity implications, the findings indicate there are also security implications when there is little to no web filtering enforced in organizations. In the last 12 months, 38 percent of organizations experienced one or more security incidents through the use of non-work-related websites on the corporate network.

These security incidents primarily stem from the use of personal webmail services (15 percent) and social media channels (11 percent). However, less than 40 percent of organizations block these online properties, which may contribute to the problem. Security incidents stemming from illegal (5 percent) or unethical (7 percent) websites were less common over the last 12 months, perhaps because 85 percent of companies block these sites.

“It’s evident web filtering is effective at keeping employees on task and reducing security risks,” said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. “But in a world where IT professionals are constantly performing a balancing act between protecting networks and enabling and trusting employees to do their jobs, sometimes it’s not possible to block every potentially dangerous website. As a result, web filtering should only be one part of a multi-layered security strategy, instead of being viewed as a cure-all.”

 

Methodology

The Spiceworks survey was conducted in May 2018 and included 645 respondents from organizations across North America and Europe. Respondents are among the millions of business technology professionals in Spiceworks and represent a variety of company sizes, including small-to-medium-sized businesses and enterprises. Respondents come from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, nonprofits, education, government, and finance.

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