I had many bosses, each one had a different approach about allowing or not use of Windows Live Messenger, Facebook, and many other Internet sites.

Of course Internet is really needed to research about the best way to solve a specific task. Sometimes you could have a friend online, also a programmer, who knows better about something.

For some managers, internet access would slow down project progress, and on the other hand, allow people to interact and find out brand new solutions.

What would you do?

13 Answers 13


I wouldn't make it an issue unless it became a problem. I prefer to treat my employees as adults and assume they will act professionally unless there is evidence to the contrary. For example, if someone is continually missing deadlines without a good reason I might check in on them once in a while and if they are wasting time online, THEN I would deal with that individual as needed.

Also, since none of my employees are paid hourly, I don't see the sense in policing every minute they spend at the office as long as they are getting their work done.

The exception might be if they were doing something online that is otherwise problematic (porn, leaking company secrets, badmouthing the company publicly, etc.) For those things we would have specific policies against it and deal with infractions also on an individual basis.

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    +1 for comprehensive answer - particular points about hourly payment and policies – JBRWilkinson Oct 22 '10 at 12:35
  • +1 for dealing on an individual basis rather than punishing the whole. – Michael K Nov 10 '10 at 17:17

My personal belief is people in all professions, but especially creative/problem solving professions need mental down time through out the day. Sure, you could stand behind your programmers cracking a whip and yelling, "More code!", and the project will probably get done on time and on budget, but you will get a mediocre product. They'll cut corners and write sloppy code just to get you off their back, and their minds won't be engaged enough to come up with elegant solutions.

Anytime I've had programmers working under me I've always encouraged them to take time off through out the day. Read a book, listen to music, play some basketball outside, or even spend some time on Face/Digg/Reddit/Whatever if that's what they like. All I care about is the final product. I don't care how they managed their time to achieve great results.

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    can i join your company ??? – GoodSp33d Oct 22 '10 at 7:33
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    this is an awesome thinking! I've seen people creating sloppy code to get the boss off their back :) – Junior M Oct 22 '10 at 10:26

In a team of developers it very quickly becomes clear who is productive and who is not. IMHO, banning IM or Facebook will not make bad programmers any more productive, but it certainly will negatively affect the morale of the good ones.


If you can't trust your employees to get their work done because of the presence of distractions, then you might be hiring the wrong type of people.

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    ..or have a morale problem in the team. – JBRWilkinson Oct 22 '10 at 12:30
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    In either case, an Internet ban isn't really going to effectively make things better. – user2348 Dec 12 '10 at 0:26

Basically a developer needs full access to the Internet, to search for information, download programs etc.

Therefore a liberal policy is important. Then it comes down to, can the individual person use it in a "reasonable" amount of time each day, which in turn is measurable by - how long is this project estimated to take, and how long took it really. If productivity is low, then consider looking at why. If productivity is high or acceptable then let the developers do as they like.

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    yes, and sometimes the boss needs to present results (to his manager) about concurrent projects progress. So people are putting out the fire and if he saws someone on Facebook, he gets nervous! :) – Junior M Oct 22 '10 at 10:30
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    If 9 people are urgently trying to fix a big problem and one person is killing time on Facebook, that person better be able to explain themselves to the other 9 engineers, let alone his team leader and departmental manager. – JBRWilkinson Oct 22 '10 at 12:33
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    @JBRWilkinson, he might no be able to help. But then of course he can provide a coffee supply hot-line! – user1249 Oct 22 '10 at 13:29

With the proliferation of smart phones and mobile data plans, how exactly do you monitor and control use of the internet? You can create policies against use of company equipment and internet connections, but you can't eliminate the distractions. Your best bet is to hire people who get the job done. A developer who works eight solid hours a day, and spends two hours on "distractions," is worth more than a weak developer who puts in ten hours face time.


we use Messenger inter-office. I would have to say "no" to facebook (etc.) as the temptation to update your profile rather then doing your coding, is too great. Of course, the exception would be if you are developing something for facebook (etc.) Not to mention the addiction many people have to Farmville (etc.)

  • +1 Have to agree here. We have social sites blocked, and I actually kind of like it (like facebook, not stackoverflow). It keeps me more focused on the task, and I feel better knowing that those around me are not wasting time. Yes, I know that unproductive people will probably always be that way, but I think it makes people who are productive feel a bit better about the team, which is important. – Morgan Herlocker Oct 22 '10 at 15:15
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    we dont block anything at my shop, but facebooking on company time is defiantly frowned upon – Muad'Dib Oct 22 '10 at 15:49

Personally, if I wanted to slack off on a workplace, I would've used a book or a music player instead of facebook. Some people prefer chit-chat with colleagues.
And overall, all those internat-limitation policies seem like installing and locking a door without walls. If employee has a problem with attitude, it (problem) needs to be dealt with directly.

  • +1 for not skirting around the issue, your right treating adults like children is not the answer. – Anonymous Type Nov 17 '10 at 21:03

Personally I don't see the reason of banning Messenger and a other messaging services (including twitter), cause it's a way of getting information as fast as possible and sometimes people have great networks they can leverage in that way. What I do understand is why people ban facebook at the office, cause I don't see it as a way of keeping professional contacts (and many have gaming tendencies aswell).

With that set look at the year...2010 that means the age of smartphone so if I really wanted to used facebook I could do it on my phone without the company being able to track it unless they see me sitting with my phone constantly and that would just be to obvious what I was doing.


I think chat software can be very useful for passing code snippets and URLs around between programmers (and much more efficient than voice dictation). So some kind of messenger should definitely be allowed.

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    A corporate Jabber server may be a better idea than J Random IM. Keeps your internal information internal, just in case. (But for God's sake, don't waste your money on an inferior product by dragging in big-name "solutions" like Office Communicator or IBM's SameTime.) – user2348 Dec 12 '10 at 0:28

Yes, as long as I still do my work. Developers need to be treated with a degree of trust, unless you want to spend all your time watching them, which means you don't do your work and you have unhappy devs.

If a developer just isn't turning in the work then discuss it with him, and if necessary request his internet history from IT. If he's failing to turn in work in a timely manner and you see that he's spending all his time on YouTube, then it's time to have a quiet little word.

You also have to understand that sometimes a developer will just be blocked from doing work, through no fault of his own. I was a build engineer at a small company, where the build machine was (you guessed it!) my desktop. A build would last up to half an hour, and would max out the machine for most of that (it wasn't a very powerful machine - actually an old dev box from a previous employee who had left). I would then go and test the install, which would take about 20 minutes. I normally took a book to work.


IMO, this question actually leads into the difference between people that must be managed vs. people that can manage themselves.

Much like managed code, people that must be managed require a runtime. They must have structure, office hours, scheduled meetings, a certain amount of vacation days so they know how much they've "used up", tasks/tickets handed to them, and a set of rules to play by. Without this structure, they will get lazy, push the boundaries, and require constant correction from you. There's a certain, usually "corporate" style of development that lends itself to these types of developers. If that's you, then you might consider ways to restrict distractions and social networks.

People that can manage themselves are the ones that only need a vision, and they're off with it, delivering stuff at 2pm Tuesday and midnight on Thursday or on the weekend, talking with customers, and moving things forward without your scheduling a status meeting. They will set their own limits with regard to social network time, StackExchange time (ahem), etc. These make good developers for creative and innovative products. Under no circumstances should you restrict their access to social networks or anything else; it's not necessary. A good trust relationship is a must, and web proxies / filters / timeclocks / forms are the enemy of trust.

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    Just realized this is the first answer I've made on SE that makes me feel like I just wrote someone's horoscope. Yikes. – Brandon Oct 22 '10 at 16:33

A solution such as www.workmeter.com could be of help, this allows the entreprise adopt a liberal policy while keeping programmers self conscious of their productivity. Allowing people handle and review their data enhances their time management self consciousness, they become aware about their online habits and tend to correct them (otherwise, as a monitoring solution, allows the manager to keep an eye on bad practices)

  • wow... I would never work anywhere that wanted to micromanage me at this low a level. – Robert S Ciaccio Dec 11 '10 at 21:57
  • i don't think the application or url is low level, and there are (optionally) private ways in where even this data isn't sent, only effective and objective work. If you give it a try you'll see that the low level analysis isn't so useful (a manager of a small sized team, 4 programmers, imagine the amount of data!!!), it aims to help improve and manage effectively a team and promotes workers time's self management, it's not exclusively monitoring. Moreover this such control is already present, i.e. the 6 months log retention ISP's policy, proxies, firewall's logs, computers system log,... – Iago Tomàs Dec 12 '10 at 0:32

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