Employees across Europe and the US are spending at least four hours per week, the equivalent of 26 workdays per year, on websites completely unrelated to their job. Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, looks at how businesses can boost security and increase productivity by filtering websites in the workplace.
The internet has certainly transformed the business landscape, making it much easier to bring people from different corners of the world together. As a result, the world is now a much smaller and more connected place.
While the internet helps businesses get more work done than ever before, in a twist of irony, it can also lead to unproductive behaviors in the workplace. We all can think of a colleague or two who spends too much time watching cat videos…
As entertaining as YouTube is, unless you’re in the social media sphere, employees spending lots of time there is not good for business. In an attempt to keep employees focused, honest, and on track, many businesses choose to restrict web content across a variety of channels. However, in the case of digital media, web filtering can have an impact on whether a marketer’s message is seen by their target audience.
“The medium is the message”
Philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined this phrase in the early ’60s, right at the dawn of the electronic age. It’s since become a creed for the modern marketer, and whether marketers are targeting buyers via TV or the latest digital media channels, the chosen medium will shape how the message is not only received but understood by the target audience.
In the case of digital media, it’s important to understand which marketing messages are actually getting through to buyers during their workday, and whether these messages are making an impact. But if corporate IT policies are preventing workers from visiting the channels marketers are advertising on, then the message won’t be heard at all.
Exactly what sites and services are companies blocking on corporate networks? Spiceworks recently surveyed nearly 700 businesses to find out.
Social media: Facebook and Snapchat blocked most often in the workplace
The research shows 36 percent of organisations are blocking Facebook and Snapchat at work. Instagram wasn’t far behind at 35 percent, followed by Twitter (32 percent) and Pinterest (31 percent). In contrast, only 16 percent of organisations block LinkedIn, likely because the service is often used to recruit employees and for legitimate career-related purposes.
But why are businesses blocking social media? It turns out there’s a direct link between filtering social media and overall productivity in the workplace. In fact, it’s evident that productivity levels in the workplace can peak when social media is restricted on the corporate network. For example, in businesses 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 businesses that don’t block social media.
Netflix most commonly blocked video streaming service
When it comes to video streaming sites, Netflix is the most commonly blocked service (37 percent of organisations block it), followed by Amazon Prime Video (32 percent), Vudu (31 percent), and Twitch (27 percent). However, only 16 percent of companies block YouTube, perhaps because many organisations have legitimate business uses for it, such as using the service to view relevant how-to videos or host their own marketing materials. So compared to the other video streaming services, YouTube is safer bet for digital marketers who aim to reach buyers during work hours.
Online forums are infrequently blocked
Apart from the notorious 4chan forum (known for hosting questionable content), being blocked by 37 percent of corporate networks, relatively few online forums get blocked by corporate web filters. For example, the social news forum Reddit is blocked by only 21 percent of organisations.
Other forums that focus on answering potentially work-related questions are usually permitted on corporate networks. According to Spiceworks data, 18 percent of companies block Quora, while only 12 percent restrict access to Yahoo Answers.
Online shopping sites are in the safe zone
Retail sites aren’t as much of a concern when it comes to allowing for employee access on the corporate network, and only 13 percent of companies block eBay and Etsy. Amazon was the least-filtered shopping portal: only 8 percent of organisations block the site on the corporate network, perhaps because many businesses use it to make online purchases for work purposes.
Ultimately, digital media offers huge opportunities for innovative marketers to connect with customers. But in an age where web filtering is commonplace, choosing the right time and place to engage with potential buyers might determine whether your message reaches your target audience at all.
By Peter Tsai
Senior technology analyst
Peter Tsai is a senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. Formerly a systems administrator, programmer, and server engineer who has lived IT from the inside and out, Peter now works to serve up IT articles, reports, infographics, and livecasts that inform and entertain millions of IT pros in Spiceworks worldwide.