A friend asked me the other day what I thought about banning the internet and IM at work. On the one hand, productivity would almost certainly go up. On the other hand, who wants to work at a fascist dictatorship? Apparently they used to do this at Westwood back in the day--they didn't even have e-mail--and Westwood was a focused, productivity powerhouse.
I know that when I see other guys on the team surfing the web during work hours it sometimes makes my blood boil. Of course, I've been known to surf the web and IM myself; of course, whenever *I* do it, it's justified research. Unless I'm catching up with Homestar Runner.
Just came across an article on procrastination via Jurie's blog and gave the issue more thought. http://www.kuro5hin.org/story
I don't think I'd ever ban the internet at work. It seems like it's fighting the symptom rather than the cause. The cause would be people who don't want to be productive. You get rid of the internet, that non-productivity will just channel into e-mail, water cooler conversation, whatever. Generally I find the best people have their web surfing and IMing under control; some even talk about how they "use build times to meditate" or "review code".
My half-baked ideas for fixing out-of-control internet surfing, if I felt like it was a problem:
* Have a meeting where you talk about how you feel like internet surfing has gotten out of control. Say something like, "Now, although I'm tempted to ban the internet, I know I can't force people to be productive. You've got to be responsible for your own productivity." Point them to a bunch of productivity tricks that you use like the ones from the article. For example, back when I coded full-time, I set my screen-saver to say "Focus!"
* Make sure your downtimes are lightning fast - don't give people an excuse. Use perforce instead of sourcesafe, use a good build system, make it somebody's nearly full-time job to optimize workflow.
* Layoffs - you probably know who the real problem web-surfers and IMers are.
* And, the most half-baked idea of them all, which I got reading about Gore Associates: a democratically-determined MVP program. On a regular basis, you could have team members vote on who made the largest contributions to the company. The winners would get recognition, prizes, bonuses, whatever. This would be an easy thing to screw up: the number of ways in which it could go wrong are many and varied. It's a gray area between healthy and unhealthy competition. But, in theory, it could help motivate everyone to do their damnedest to make a difference, above and beyond the standard set of carrots and sticks at a typical company. (When you think about it, your team already has an MVP program - whoever the boss's favorite is is the MVP, and he gets the biggest raises. Wouldn't you rather have some kind of democratic influence over that, to mitigate the problems caused by the boss's blind spots?) And if everyone was competing to be the most productive, the IMing and internet surfing would take care of itself.
But that's the internet. Depending on how my team was laid out--for example, if they were all in one big war-room--I might ban IM, the enemy of flow. On the other hand, in a space with a lot of separate offices, IM becomes a quick way to improve communication.