Provide distractions to Gen Y at work?

by | Jun/23/2010

If human multitasking is a fantasy, why would anyone give Generation Y employees access to distractions at work?

While I was presenting in May, a CEO in the audience related information about a productivity expert promoting human multitasking and providing “Generation Y” with the distractions they want while at the office. You may have followed my blog postings the past two weeks about the disruption of interruptions and the idea of human multitasking.

There is indeed literature promoting what I would call the “distracted work environment” in an effort to attract the “best and brightest” young employees.

I guess I’m old-fashioned, and I’m taking the stand that the “best and brightest” employees will not want to be distracted while performing their duties on the job. From an IT security perspective, this access can be devastating to your business.

The CEO in the audience feels that in order for Gen Y employees to be happy, employers need to provide them access to social media all day long to use at the worker’s discretion. He cited examples of the work environments at Google and other Internet companies. I wonder how many other employers tell themselves it is “ok” to provide distractions to workers.

For Google, and even the marketing professionals at your own organization, it makes sense—even to me—for them to access social media at work since that is part of their job!

To me, promoting social media for non-work-related tasks makes as much sense as keeping a carton of cigarettes readily available and constantly restocked at the desk of someone who is trying to stop smoking.  Sounds more like temptation and torture than being supportive of someone achieving their goal.

I believe in workers feeling happy based on a “job well done” and my appreciation for their accurate and productive work. I believe there are members of Generation Y who take pride in their work and perform to the best of their abilities. I feel it is the employer’s responsibility to provide them with a productive work environment—free of distractions.

Isn’t it enough that the employees can have their own smart phone or other device right next to their desk and use that for their distractions? Need we, as employers, provide the same distraction using a larger screen on company owned equipment? No, you do not—at least not in the summer of 2010. The inappropriate access for non-work-related social media access results in too much lost productivity and too risky for IT security.

You may have seen the short comedy video a wonderful video production firm created for The Foster Institute, Inc. demonstrating the internet misuse that may be going on in your organization. The theme of the video is an office romance gone awry.

One of the more enjoyable parts of blogging is stirring up some controversy, so please post your comments on the blog.