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Tackling time wasting at work

Tackling time wasting at work

Employees in the Jordanian public sector are reportedly up in arms after nearly 50 websites were blocked from them while they’re at work. There’s a better way, thinks Sam Potter.

August 22, 2010 1:48 by

Earlier this week, media reported that the government of Jordan has banned access to almost 50 websites for its employees whilst at work. In total, the government has banned 48 websites, including many local news websites. The move follows a government survey that revealed employees were spending on average about two hours a day online, and for each average hour wasted a day the cost was AED 360 million a year. Public employees browsed 70 million sites during working hours, but only 13,000 were relevant to work.

“The government is not targeting specific websites. The ban included dailies’ websites as well as the government’s own news agency, Petra,” Ali al Ayed, the minister of state for media affairs and communications, said earlier in the month. “The decision is part of measures to boost the performance of public employees. Working hours should be spent in serving the public interest.”

The move has provoked a negative reaction from government employees. Internet penetration for personal households in the country is low, so many government employees take advantage of facilities at work. And there are a lot of them – estimates put the number of people in state employment at 40 percent of the population, or 500,000 people.

There are a number of factors in the Jordanian decision, including issues of free speech in the country, but leaving these aside and looking at it from a purely business point of view it’s hard to fault the government’s reasoning. Take Ahmed, one public sector employee who vocalized his opposition in the National. “It is a ridiculous,” he says, before immediately going on to ruin any chances he has of making a sound argument by saying, “The employee does not spend all hours working strictly.” Unfortunately, Ahmed, that is pretty much what we get paid to do.

The Jordanian situation was brought to mind by a story in the UK press over the weekend. A management consultancy in the country has conducted a new study into productivity rates of employees. It looked at both private and public sector employees, and found that public sector staff “waste” up to two thirds of their days – the study found only 32 percent of a working day was spent productively. This compares to 44 percent in the private sector (itself a pretty poor figure).

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