Wednesday, December 15, 2010

[CWHK] Merry employees make jolly rich bosses

Recently, ISACA conducted a survey on online holiday shopping and workplace Internet safety in Hong Kong. More than 60 percent of the respondents—mainly IT security and auditing professionals—think employees in Hong Kong will spend more than three hours shopping online using work-related devices in November and December this month. ISACA puts the "loss" to their employers at HK$7,800 per employee.

While the caution security risks due to personal activities on work computers and networks is valid, I question the notion that an employee must focus 100% of his or her time on "work" and be deprived of any personal activities to be more productive. In fact, I think any employee that "goofs off" for three hours out of any given two-month-period would is likely too "dedicated' to achieve maximum productivity.

News flash: no one ever works 100% of the time

Think about all the other time we "waste" at work: ordering and eating afternoon tea, making personal phone calls, going to the loo, and simply daydreaming. Not to mention the sin of logging onto Facebook for non-work related chit-chatting. No doubt these hours add up to much more than another three-per-60-days.

White-collar and professional workers today—the "knowledge workers"—are often trusted by their employers to do what's right and deliver results, and be happy and satisfied on the job. If so, who cares if they shop online or book a few movie tickets once in a while—as long as the employer's computer system and network are maintained in a secured way and the employee is going online "safely." Not to mention the overtime hours that Hong Kongers invariably put in.

A happy employee is a good and productive employee. Think about Google, which has recently been reported as giving all of its staff a Christmas present of a 10% salary hike plus a one-time US$1,000 bonus. Google staff definitely spend more than three hours doing personal matters during work time on work computers—yet they've gone from the dorm room to world-class multinational in record time.

Productivity for nerds-only?

Some may argue that this style that only works for a geeky Internet company like Google. Or because Google is making so much that it can afford to be so lenient.

I beg to differ. Which is cause, and which effect? When bosses count staff-minutes like a miser counts grains of gold dust, these companies and their staff will never be as profitable and creative as Google.

Get online and shop!

And let's not overlook the positive outlook on e-commerce in Hong Kong. If the survey result turns out to be true, then this Christmas may indeed turn out well for Hong Kong's businesses and our overall economy. What better boost of confidence can we get for e-commerce in Hong Kong?

If all office workers go online to shop for three hours this holiday season, we may really have a most joyous holiday season this year. Time for a little bit of contrarian thinking from yours truly, and a Merry Christmas.

Computerworld Hong Kong, December 2011 issue:


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