Jamshed Avari | 21 July 2010
If you do have privileged internet access at work, try not to abuse it. Everyone else might get cut off too.
JAMSHED AVARI, deputy editor
This year’s football world cup seemed to pass with less than the usual fanfare, which I with my lifelong indifference to the sport, greatly appreciated. I did tune out when the trickle status updates turned into floods of anguished/triumphant/defiant ALL-CAPS YELLS!!!, and thankfully the desire to bludgeon some rabid sports fan only came every 100th time up I heard that damned Shakira caller tune. I've emerged with my sanity, but judging by the stories I’ve heard this past month, not everyone was as lucky.
A bunch of friends and colleagues in various offices around the country had to put up with replay YouTube videos constantly playing at loud volume on various parts of their office floors. Even fans who’d stayed up at night watching the match, started getting annoyed by all the noise around them, but for some reason, the world cup gave everyone the license to disturb others! Perhaps it has to do with crowd mentality. In ordinary situations, one person wouldn’t start playing a loud song or video in the middle of an office. If he didn’t immediately get shushed, others would at least come to see what was going on or glare disapprovingly. In this situation, chances are there was already a group of people animatedly recapping some fine point of the match or the other, probably with someone challenging someone else’s judgment, and leading naturally to YouTube for evidence to settle the debate. The group approval is already built in, so self-imposed protocol checks go out the window and the speakers get cranked up with no thought to anyone else who might be within range.
One friend in particular had another grouse because of the situation. YouTube is technically banned in his office, with a few exceptions for those whose work demanded access. Top bosses have no such restrictions, and a few even have private cellular Internet access dongles for their laptops. It’s a fairly common situation across offices, but according to him, there are no checks and balances regarding who needs YouTube and who doesn’t. As a result, some use flimsy excuses with the IT department and then waste their time and the office’s bandwidth watching funny videos all day. These are the ones, he says, who then enjoy gathering folks around their desks to show off videos of interesting moments while their frustrated cubicle neighbors wait eons for a simple search results page to load.
The issue he raises is interesting: YouTube and other high-bandwidth sites are restricted for a reason. Yet people who are granted access don’t respect the fact that it’s a privilege, and are tempted to use it indiscriminately. So shouldn’t offices take this into account, and simply suspend all such privileges during periods of expected misuse? Doing this every few months also provides the perfect excuse to force individuals and departments to reapply for access, ensuring the list is fresh and the reasons are genuine. In an ideal world, we’d all be able to monitor social media, stream videos, run VoIP conversations and use every rich app out there. But every person’s usage does add up, and few companies can scale their bandwidth expenses to such levels for every single user.
Whether football is in season or not, workplace etiquette demands that those wasting time at least do so with headphones on. And companies looking to cut their service bills ought to take regular audits to check that resources aren’t being wasted.