toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 18, 2006

internet access denial

In the eleven years that Ursula has been with her employer she has witnessed the exciting introduction of the Internet into her workplace to its gradual demise where its access has now been denied.

"In 1995 the Net was heralded as a resource to be used by staff to enhance their work performance," says Ursula, "and it was an incredibly exciting time for us."

"In those early days, very few people were online at home," explains Ursula, "so it was a really novel and fun thing to have the Internet at work. I took to it like a duck to water and I still have my first contribution to the company’s website. I framed it!"

"Over the years, though, I've seen Internet access for staff develop into a monstrous problem of rights and privileges that most companies, including mine, would rather do without. And most have, by restricting access or denying it altogether."

"The temptation to use Internet access for private surfing had become such a problem at my workplace that the company had to remove the privilege of Internet access to all but a few staff whose jobs needed the resource," explains Ursula. "Unfortunately, my job didn’t need Internet access and I'm upset that my right to Internet access at work has been denied."

"Yes," says Ursula, "I am now online at home, of course, but with a husband and three children all wanting to use the system, I don’t get a look in on the two networked computers at home. I relied upon having Internet access at work to do a bit of surfing and catch up with email - in my own time, either at lunch or before or after work - and I was told that Internet access for private use is no more a right than expecting the company to provide a television set and hot and cold running water at every desk."

"I never abused Internet access when I had it, and the company is aware of my honesty -- it employs a guy to monitor staff Internet use," says Ursula, "yet the amount of abuse that was happening, mostly by young staff members, was so pervasive that denial of access was applied to everybody whose job didn’t need it, and that included me."

"The young people at work," says Ursula, "had made private surfing in company time an art. They used special programs designed to show a spreadsheet -- or some other work related design -- when a supervisor or manager appeared unexpectedly in their area."

"The young guys were particularly bad abusers, surfing porn sites and spreading offensive material by e-mail attachment," sighs Ursula. "They also printed porn on the company printers and pinned it up on walls."

"Because of the offensive nature of this practice," says Ursula, "some of the young guys lost their jobs. And quite rightly so, I believe."

"I'm aware, too, that the company’s system had been attacked by viruses on many occasions -- either by e-mail abuse, downloading infected files or personal disk infection -- and with just about every young person these days being familiar with hacking and cracking techniques, the company system had also been attacked by saboteurs."

"Where I work, the staff turnover of young people is very high and there’s talk that a couple of guys who had been fired had wreaked a bit of revenge by hacking into the system," says Ursula. "And if denial of Internet access were not bad enough we're now required -- because of the high turnover of staff -- to change all passwords when somebody leaves, and that's almost monthly."

"Such a security measure would not, of course, deter someone determined to do damage," says Ursula, "but it's just an indication of how alert companies are becoming to the problems inherent in this age of e-crime."

Ursula believes that a happy medium between putting in a day's work and indulging in a bit of private surfing might be obtained if companies set aside a couple of stand-alone PCs in a staff room for use during lunch-time and before and after work - yet the argument she keeps hearing is: "Why should we? Most people have Internet access at home, and providing it at work is not an entitlement."

"While agreeing that it is only fair that people work at their places of employment, and play at home," says Ursula, "I'm nevertheless peeved that what I once considered a right is now denied to me. And I'm angry that the youngsters at work are responsible for this."

"I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if my husband and children didn't commandeer the Internet at home," says Ursula, "but the current situation at work and at home has really put a damper on my life."

"In that the Internet has caused divisions at work and at home," muses Ursula, "maybe its costs far outweigh its benefits. But, of course, it's not the Internet per se that's responsible for these divisions, it's my reliance on it -- even my addiction to it -- that's to blame."

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