As Millennials, most of are used to being connected 24/7 with friends and family. Through email, instant messaging, RSS feeds and text messaging, we are aware of what's happening around us almost instantaneously.
Although the web makes it easier for us to do work throughout the day, it also provides a big dilemma for employers who have a legitimate concern regarding the impact of various online distractions on employee productivity.
Below are some of the most common online distractions and some tips on how you can tune them out during work hours:
Personal Emails & IMs
Providing your work email for emergencies might be a good idea, but responding to personal emails often may distract you from work. If you need to check personal email accounts, do it infrequently and discreetly.
Similarly, limit the use of Instant Messaging (IMs) for personal reasons. Some companies do provide access to IM software such as Skype and MSN Messenger, but they do it for business reasons. If you don't have a business use for IM, it may be a good idea to avoid launching the software during work hours.
Social Networking Sites
The advent of sites such as Facebook and Twitter provides another avenue for us to get connected. A study conducted by Accenture suggests that Millennials expect their employees to provide access to social networking sites. As a generation, we now rely on Facebook heavily as a way to connect.
While some studies suggest that moderate use of social networking sites at work actually boosts productivity, some employers still frown upon this practice at the workplace - some have even resorted to blocking certain features of social networking sites, while others have blocked these sites completely. If you're just starting on a job, err on the side of caution. Check personal Facebook and Twitter accounts only during breaks, using only your cell phone or assigned break computers.
This might be an obvious one - you should avoid online gaming while at work. This includes games that are integrated with social networking sites. Playing online games at work is not only unproductive - it's also very unprofessional!
If you forgot to pay your credit card bill and you need to do it quickly, it may not be a big deal if you do it during work hours. You can usually pay bills online within a few minutes. On the other hand, balancing your cheque book during working hours is likely not okay as this may take longer. The key here is to do it only if you can do it quickly. (For security, be sure to log out of your account after doing online banking. If you share your computer with a co-worker, you might also need to clear your browser's cache).
Forums & Message Boards
Online communities can be addicting. If the forum or the message board has nothing to do with your work, however, it's best not to visit these sites while at work.
Are you keeping an eye on an auction on eBay? Are you using your downtime at work to shop on Amazon.com? You might want to think twice about shopping online from work. Workplace shopping is not advisable. Leave the retail therapy where it belongs: during work off-hours at the mall or at the comfort of your home.
Also, if you frequently visit sites that have nothing to do with your work, you might want to think about why you do it. For example, if you do it to quickly get a mental break from work, you can consider taking a quick walk instead. Or if you find that you don't have much to do at work, consider talking to your boss about taking on more projects. Doing so will help you avoid online distractions, but it also shows initiative on your part.
Your best line of defence, though, is to ask your boss about the company's policies on internet use. If possible, ask for an official copy of the policy. Your co-workers' practices will give you a good idea of how lenient the company is on internet use, but you can avoid any type of issue if you know the exact policy. The quality of your work depends a lot on the amount of hours you've put into it. Minimizing online distractions while at work can help you produce work that will impress your employer.