Are Network Proxy Configurations Antiquated in Today’s Corporate Environment?

A few years ago, I worked part-time for a company that configured their server proxy settings to prevent networked employees (wired users) from accessing social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter (mind you, wireless is not even allowed). The settings also prevented users accessing their personal email and the LinkedIn Inbox. A typical error message would read, “The proxy server is refusing connections, check the proxy setting to make sure they are correct. Contact your network administrator to make sure the proxy server is working.”

Was their IT policy antiquated?

Mind you, the company allows employees to work from home (WFH) up to 3 days per week although there are some employees who WFH Monday thru Friday. Before working from home, employees would typically use a VPN or Virtual Private Network. While WFH and using their personal devices, even though employees use the Virtual Private Network (VPN), they can access social networks and personal email not allowed while networked in the office. Should there be such an IT policy in the office if employees can certainly bypass that two or three days a week while WFH?

Don’t forget about smart phones when it comes to an offices’ IT policy. Smart phones are ubiquitous and with a data plan, users have the ability to access those “prohibited websites” while in the office. Is this another work-around to get what you want when you want it regardless of the IT policy?

The other “potential loophole” or “productivity gap” in the corporate policy revolves around office phones. Ok, proxy server configuration prevents me from updating my “status” in Facebook or “send a tweet” from Twitter but I can use the office phone during business hours to make personal calls. Let’s see, I need to call patient billing about my husband’s outpatient surgery, or have some questions about my cable bill, or why not give Mom and Dad a call? Could not a loss of employee productivity while in the office be partly due to employees abusing their phone privileges?

If people want to cheat, they’ll find a way to cheat. Many will find a “work around” to corporate policies. If employees feel disillusioned or unmotivated at work, they’ll find ways of wasting time regardless of corporate policy.

Just a thought, but if people feel empowered and are making a difference, most will act accordingly. If people feel they are doing something worthwhile, most will produce accordingly. It’s not about proxy configurations or IT restrictions to try to motivate employees to be focused and do a good job. It is about hiring competent and responsible people with whom you can trust – employees who are empowered and are committed to their team, department and organization regardless of the IT policy.