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Does your Internet usage policy make your employees cry?

How are you feeling today? Lonely? Upset? Vaguely withdrawn from society? If so, quick — check your Twitter stream on your smartphone. Better now?

We’ve all heard BlackBerry jokingly referred to as a “CrackBerry,” but according to a recent study of 1,000 U.K. workers, 53% of technology users experience real psychological trauma when disconnected from the Internet, whether it’s checking email or their social media sites or just checking the news of the world. Research indicates that the feeling really is like getting a bit of an addictive fix.

This explains so much. I have many friends and acquaintances whose employers have a “locked down” Internet usage policy, preventing them from going to certain websites like Google+, Gmail, Facebook and YouTube. Those same people rarely have much good to say about their job. Let’s not fool ourselves: They’re still getting to those websites while at work — they’re just doing it much more creatively, either by finding proxy sites or by using their mobile devices. If a well-meaning executive thought that she could prevent productivity loss by Internet surfing, she’s completely mistaken because people will do anything, even defy corporate policy to get their Twitter fix. Instead of the risk of losing data, the policy has guaranteed a loss of employee satisfaction and risks them heading over to Monster.com with their resumés in hand.

I’ve heard CIOs remark that a strict Internet usage policy is meant to prevent data theft or proprietary information being broadcast on social networks, but just as employees will find a way to get to their email, if they really wanted to take home proprietary information, they will. There’s always the ever-handy USB drive, not to mention the old-fashioned printer room, with its convenient fax machine.

So tell me, CIO Symmetry readers, do you block some portion of the Internet on the corporate network? If so, is it just obviously inappropriate sites, or do you also prevent employees from accessing their personal email or places where proprietary data could leave the building, places like Google Docs and Dropbox? If you are selective, which kinds of websites are considered safe? Wikipedia, for instance, allows users to upload content but has a huge benefit — is that kind of website prohibited? And is your Internet usage policy a point of contention? Can you explain your strategy behind this practice?

The comments are eager to hear your theories on the perfect Internet usage policy.

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