IT versus Angry Birds: Time to stop being the pig

The productivity police role is wrong for IT and wrong for encouraging real productivity

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It's not a question of not getting your work done, but of doing it better. I take responsibility for my time, and I do what I need to make sure I meet my commitments. If someone wants to play a game but is your top producer, why penalize him or her? Such people have figured out what works both for them and for you. Encourage them by enabling them to be flexible and agile, giving them the freedom to work in a way that allows them to be even more productive.

March Madness starts this week, and there will be loads of people who will stream the games at work, and it will be very difficult to get ahold of if it's the right game. Is the best way to handle that to cut off the streams at the firewall? Unless you can enclose the company in a giant Faraday cage, people will use their cellular plans to get around it. Is it a bad thing? If your workers plan their day around it so they're more productive before the games start and their work doesn't suffer, why should you care?

Maybe the better way to handle it is to organize a viewing party in a conference room. People still need to bring their devices and those that have to work right then need to do that work, but with such a human approach, you can build team camaraderie and goodwill. The next time, you ask someone to stay late or work hard before a deadline, they will remember watching the games and will be more favorable toward that request for taking more of their time.

None of this means there aren't people who are addicted to games, social networking, and video watching where, yes, their work product slips. There will always be people who have issues. The problem is that we become paranoid and let a few people cloud our judgement for the rest of our workforce.

Remember, we have managers where we work, and their responsibility is making sure that their teams get their work done. They need to manage effectively. When they see issues with people, they need to be handled effectively -- not call in the IT police. If you have a worker who doesn't get anything done, you as a manager have to step in. Maybe it becomes a personal day for them, or maybe they lose the privilege of flexible schedules and access to personal apps at work.

Keep in mind: Before people were playing Angry Birds, they were playing Solitaire or Mine Sweeper on their computers. Before that, they were reading the newspaper or doing crosswords when they got in. Learn to say yes to those who can mix personal and work, and let them take the responsibility for their own actions. Reserve your power for when you need to act.

A company that has to treat all their employees like children has little hope of succeeding. But those that treat their employees with respect and value their contributions are growing fast.

This article, "IT versus Angry Birds: Time to stop being the pig," originally appeared at A Screw's Loose and is republished at InfoWorld.com with permission (© Brian Katz). Read more of Brian Katz's The Squeaky Wheel blog at InfoWorld.com or at A Screw's Loose. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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