The restrictions infantilize workers--they foster resentment, reduce morale, lock people into inefficient routines, and, worst of all, they kill our incentives to work productively. In the information age, most companies' success depends entirely on the creativity and drive of their workers. IT restrictions are corrosive to that creativity--they keep everyone under the thumb of people who have no idea which tools we need to do our jobs but who are charged with deciding anyway.Unchain the Office Computers! (Thanks, Farhad)
If I sound a bit over-exercised about what seems like an uncontroversial practice, it's because I am--for too long, office workers of the world have taken IT restrictions sitting down. Most of my co-workers at Slate labor away on machines that are under bureaucratic control; they need special dispensation to install anything that requires running an installation program, even programs that have been proved to be safe--anything that uses the increasingly popular Adobe AIR platform or new versions of major Web browsers. Other friends are blocked from visiting large swaths of the Web. IT departments install filtering programs that block not only adult sites but anything that might allow for goofing off on "company time," including e-mail and chat programs, dating sites, shopping sites, and news sites like Digg or Reddit (or even Slate).
Different IT managers have different aims, of course. At some companies--like Slate--the techs are mainly trying to keep the network secure; preventing people from installing programs is a simple and effective (if blunt) way to ensure that corporate computers don't ingest scary stuff. Other firms want to do something even more sinister: keep workers from having fun. These companies block the Web and various other online distractions on the theory that cowed a workforce is an efficient one. But that's not really the case.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.