The Madness Isn’t Limited to March

It’s no secret that the line between work and play is increasingly blurry. Employers expect that professional employees will be available to handle whatever task comes along, whenever it comes along.

On the other hand, employees expect—perhaps demand is a better word—that employers accommodate them by making work hours more flexible. If a person wants to attend his or her child’s soccer game or works better in the evening, then so be it.

Yet, the same issues, challenges and complaints continually arise. Every year, when the NCAA tournament or another high-profile event takes place, it’s déjà vu all over again. Employees supposedly zone out and begin tracking games at the expense of getting work done.

At this year’s NCAA tournament, during the first week alone, Turner sports reported that viewers watched 54 million live streams through the Web and mobile apps—a total of 11 million hours worth of content.

Interestingly, network monitoring firm Paessler analyzed activity on 40 customer networks and found that the results were not enough to cause employers to cry foul. While nearly 77 percent of respondents indicated that their network traffic levels increased during workdays when NCAA tournament games were taking place, only 10 percent of respondents experienced a 30 percent or higher spike in network traffic, with an additional 15 percent reporting a 20 to 29 percent increase.

More importantly, 82 percent of respondents said that streaming video of games during work hours did not affect users’ ability to be productive because of a network slowdown or outage. In fact, 38 percent actually had games running in break rooms, cafeterias and lobby areas to minimize streaming.

The reality is that—other than the potential to negatively affect network performance—the activities an employee engages in at any given moment shouldn’t matter. Facebook? Fine. Twitter? Okay. ESPN? No problem. (Of course, those activities should not involve illegal or unethical behavior, and they should not take up an excessive amount of time.)

By now, we should be past this inane debate. There are software tools that can measure employee productivity and performance, which enables management to make personnel decisions based on facts.

To be sure, a 20th century command-and-control culture doesn’t play well in today’s increasingly upside-down and inside-out world of enterprise collaboration and social business. If you want to worry about something, try focusing on how your organization can innovate more effectively, become more agile and flexible, and find ways to connect all the digital dots faster and better than your competitors.

That’s the way to score big. Anything else is madness.