camera-559346_640Imagine you decide to check one of your employees' history on their browsers one day. The most recent 30 stops were at Facebook, Pinterest, Match.com and Amazon. Let’s assume there had been previous incidents of on-the-job theft, how would respond? Theft you say!? Yes, it’s theft and it’s rampant and epic. It’s time theft, which you need to look at exactly the same way as any other kind of stealing in your firm.

"But we are a small law firm and I trust everyone, this surely isn't happening in my firm?" Everyone wants to think that, but the hard truth is that this goes on, way more than you would ever think. And if you don’t have a system in place to monitor it, you are an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand.

When you pay an employee a set wage in exchange for a set amount of work, lets say a 40 hour work week, did you ever agree that they only have to actually work 30 or 35 hours and can goof off the rest o the time? Should you be paying them for checking their Yahoo and Gmail email accounts, Facebook or browsing on Amazon while at work?

A very common thing I have seen, in small firms and mid-sized firms alike (and a mid-size firm in our books is a firm with 25 -50 users) is they ‘trust’ everyone on their staff. I don’t question trust, but I do question focus and output. As I’ve repeated time and time again, on average, 45.03% of your revenues go towards payroll. Legal services have the 4th highest percentage of revenues going to payroll in the nation. You need to do everything you can to ensure that your staff is as productive as possible.

Browsing that is NOT related to work is theft. I know how extreme that sounds and I used to be on your side as well. I’m a laid-back, highly trusting, organic-eating eating, hippie from the 90s (funny I know). I trust and love people. But I have seen an overwhelming amount of data that shows, consistently, that this is going, unchecked on in every firm. The truth is, online communities like Facebook and commerce giants from Amazon to eBay would lose a tremendous amount of business if it were not for all the daytime use by employees at work, effectively stealing from their employers while playing on the internet. If their attention is going towards non work-related things, they are NOT working. Make no mistake: While the cat is not watching, the mice are at play at these websites, playing computer games, doing their personal banking online, sending email greeting cards, text messaging friends, watching movies, while your law firms phones go unanswered, your clients get treated as annoying interruptions and paperwork gets hidden and buried. I know how extreme this viewpoint is, but please hang with me.

On average, research shows that it takes 23 minutes to get back to the previous task at hand every time you are interrupted. Have you even peeked at Facebook for only a minute because there was a notification and before you know it, 11 minutes later you break the death-grip of Facebook, pop back out into the world, left to wonder what the heck just happened? If you know what I’m talking about here, imagine your staff doing this every day on your dime.

We recently added Content Monitoring and Filtering, Umbrella by OpenDNS, as a new service included in our offering and have been setting up all our existing clients on this. After monitoring only for a month, the data is far worse than I expected. Internally, I can confidently say that every one of our employees does the work of 3 regular employees. They are true A players, I trust them 100%. Even then, I saw a good chunk of Facebook usage, Amazon, Zulily, Etsy, Tumbler blog sites and some other trivial items.

The results have been extremely similar at every law firm we have deployed this at so far. So back to the example of my staff, after monitoring traffic for a month, we implemented content filtering, blocking certain categories and types of content from being visited while at work. I setup a bypass code for WORK and for BREAKS, so that if a site is blocked but should not be, they can easily bypass it. If they are on a break they can go to Facebook, or Zulily or Amazon. All these exceptions are tracked, by user, so I can easily go back and review the exceptions if needed.

I suggest you work on creating a “productivity-only” workplace,” with distractions removed. The less distractions your team has, the more productive they will be. In terms of the Big Brother mindset and fear, the truth is, in the workplace, people need to grasp that they are there to work; they have no right to expect privacy. Whatever they’re doing is your business as long as they are doing it at your business on your time.

Idle browsing is like a dripping faucet that’s always on, however, labor is quite a bit more expensive than water. That water drip, according to a report by Salary.com, adds up to over $750 billion (that’s billion with a b) that American companies spend paying people for work they’re not doing. In the workplace, Big Brother has to watch. The cat must never be away.

Our service for Mac-based law firms includes content monitoring and filtering. We implement Acceptable Use Policies for our clients and their staff and then install, configure and maintain their content filtering to reduce the amount of time spent at work NOT working.

I highly recommend that if you don’t currently have this in place in your firm, you reach out to your IT guy and demand they implement this. If they can’t do it, find a competent IT firm that can. And if you’re a Mac-based law firm, call us, you won’t find anyone better at supporting Mac-based law firms, since that’s the ONLY thing we do! Happy browsing.