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Banning the Net or balancing work and online chit-chat
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A young man works on his laptop as his iPhone lies beside it. As more techsavvy young people enter the workforce, they're asking employers to give them more access to social networking and other sites, both for work purposes and when they'd like to take a break from their jobs. [Shanghai Daily]

Receptionist Ni Jia was disappointed and angry when her company blocked access to Kainxin001.com, a very popular social networking Website where she could make friends, chat and weigh in on issues like pop stars, movies and weightier issues during work hours.

Her bosses - killjoys, she thought - wanted her and everyone else to focus on work, not play.

"Now my workdays are even more boring," says the 28-year-old Shanghainese who works in a local financial consulting company.

Surfing the Net and using social networking sites are enormously popular, but chatting takes company time. More and more employers are blocking access to sites like MSN, Facebook, Google talk and Chinese sites as well as video-sharing sites like YouTube and Toudou.

Many employers say staff are wasting company time, and sometimes there are virus and security issues. Young people who have grown up with the Internet say it's part of life, however, and call for more flexibility.

Beyond the Internet, there's cell phone use, 3G technology and wireless access. It can be a game of cat and mouse as employees circumvent their employers' efforts to limit their recreation. Killjoys vs Net addicts.

Finding a balance can be tricky.

"Those young employees spend too many working hours and too much energy chatting with their friends or sharing videos online," says Chen Yinfei, the information technology officer at Ni's company.

He blocked Kaixin001.com when he received complaints from managers that staff were frittering away their time online.

Sites are more likely to be blocked in big international companies with sophisticated IT departments.

Zhang Ruijie, a product salesperson, has been working for a Canadian industrial supplies manufacturer in Shanghai for four years. The company has never allowed access to any networking site.

"I thought I had entered the Dark Ages when I graduated from college and arrived in the working world," says 26-year-old Zhang who now can't enjoy Kaixin, Facebook, Hotmail (both e-mail and MSN chat), among other sites. Worse, she has no wireless access for her laptop so she can't circumvent the boss.

"The barriers definitely did what the boss intended - they stopped me and my colleagues from using work time to goof around online," says Zhang. But, she says, she needs to get online to search for information for work, not just play.

This is a common complaint from young people who join the workforce with the expectation that their bosses will embrace technology as much as they do.

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