Are your employees wasting valuable company time going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube?
Or perhaps it’s come to your attention that some employees are watching inappropriate content using their work logins?
Regardless of your reasoning, blocking YouTube within Google Workspace is an easy task for a G Suite admin. Follow the steps below to learn how to restrict or grant access across your entire organization or for targeted groups alone. The best part is that it takes barely any time at all!
Why is Blocking YouTube Useful in the Workplace?
There are a few reasons why some organizations choose to block YouTube access within the workplace.
In schools, it’s imperative to implement restrictions in order to protect students from accessing mature content online, while granting access to teachers so that they can still access teaching materials.
But in the case of workplaces, blocking YouTube can help to remove unnecessary distractions and increase productivity. When your employees are wasting company time browsing social media sites like YouTube, it interrupts their workflow and costs your business valuable time and money.
Furthermore, misuse of social media within the workplace can open the organization up to breaches of confidential information or disparaging remarks about their business or employees. It can also provide a pathway for hackers to access your organization’s network.
At the end of the day, if your employees don’t need access to YouTube to complete their daily tasks, blocking access will only decrease distractions and increase focus for a more productive workspace.
Step 1: Decide Which Restriction Level to Choose
You don’t have to go all-in with restricting users’ access to YouTube. Google Workspace offers four different permission settings in the Admin console, allowing you some flexibility with your users.
If you want to completely block YouTube access, the Strict Restricted Access setting is the best option for you. While it’s the most restrictive option, it doesn’t block all videos. Instead, it filters out most videos based on an automated system and leaves some videos available for viewing.
The next level is Moderate Restricted Access. It’s similar to the Strict Restricted mode but makes a more extensive array of videos available to users.
If you are happy with users in your organization having complete, unrestricted access to YouTube, you can set permissions to Unrestricted Access.
The final permission setting you’ll find in the Admin console is “Can approve videos.” This setting allows you to designate specific users’ permissions to approve additional videos outside the automated system. Once these videos have been approved, any signed-in user of your organization will be able to watch these videos.
Step 2: Separate Users Into Organizational Units
This step won’t apply to everyone, so skip ahead to step three if you know that you want to block YouTube access for your entire organization.
When you begin using Google Workspace, your Admin console will automatically allocate all users and devices into a single organizational unit called the top-level organizational unit. Any changes or settings you apply in the Admin console will automatically apply to this top-level unit and, thereby, all users on your account.
Suppose you’re planning on allowing certain users higher levels of access to YouTube compared to the rest. In that case, it’s essential to separate these users into a child organizational unit below the top-level unit.
For example, if the marketing department requires ongoing access to YouTube, you can separate these users into a child unit to apply different permissions to them specifically.
Depending on how your organization is set up, you may already have these organizational units in play. If you wish to grant specific users permissions instead of whole units, you can add these users to a configuration group instead.
You can create organizational units or groups in your Admin Console under Directory and Groups or Organizational Units.
Click Create Group to get started.
Then add users to the new group. You can also add additional filters.
Step 3: Configure YouTube Settings for Signed-Users
Now that you’re set up and ready to go, it’s time to configure your YouTube content settings for signed-in users.
From the Google Admin console home page, click on Apps and then Additional Google Services.
Here you’ll find all the apps your organization has access to via Google Workspace. You’ll likely have more than one page of apps, so scroll to the bottom and click the arrow over to page two. Scroll down and click YouTube.
Inside the settings for YouTube, you can see your organization’s current content settings, permissions, and any special approvers.
Click the dropdown arrow next to Content settings and then click Setup.
Next, check the Signed in users can only watch restricted and approved videos box and click Save.
The changes may not happen right away and can take up to 24 hours to propagate to all users. You’ll also be able to keep track of any changes you’ve made to your settings via the Audit log.
Step 4: Configure Group or Organizational Unit User Permissions
After configuring the content settings, you can then set the permissions for the groups or organizational units you created in step two.
Jump back into the YouTube application settings by clicking Apps and Additional Google services from the Admin console homepage. Scroll through the apps and select YouTube.
This time, you want to jump into Permissions underneath Content settings. On the left, you will have options to select specific users, groups, or organizational units.
To apply the updated permissions to those in a specific group you’ve created, click the dropdown menu arrow on Groups and search for a group within your organization. Click the group name to add it to the mix and choose the permission level you’d like to grant this group on the right, and Save.
Repeat this step for as many groups or organizational units as you need.
Here you also have the option of permitting particular users to approve videos if said videos are applicable to your organization so all users under restricted access will be able to access and view them.
If you ever want to remove permissions for the entire group, you can simply come back to this same screen, select the group you wish to remove, and click Unset.
Step 5: Managing Approved Videos
Whether you designate a user to help you with approving YouTube content for your organization or not, this step is still helpful for keeping an eye on which videos have been approved and whether they remain relevant or not.
To view your approved videos list: From the Admin console home page, go to Apps and Additional Google Services.
Scroll through to YouTube, click on Content Settings, and then select See approved videos.
Within this screen, if you want to explore the video or the channel the video is from, you can click the link, jump over to YouTube and check it out.
If you want to email the approver to understand why they approved the video or check whether it’s still relevant, you can click the approver’s name.
And to remove a video from the list, simply click Remove.
Although you likely trust anyone you’re giving YouTube access privileges to, it’s a good idea to check in on the approved video list every so often to make sure these users aren’t exploiting their privileges or getting carried away with YouTube at a time they’re supposed to be productive.
Common Problems When Blocking YouTube as a G Suite Admin
Learning how to block YouTube as a G Suite admin is a pretty straightforward process. You shouldn’t face any significant difficulties with adjusting the settings for your organization if you follow the steps above.
However, there are a few stumbling blocks you may face on your way to blocking YouTube access across your organization.
Problem 1: Google Workspace vs. Network Settings
One area in which users may find a way past the restrictions you’ve set via Google Workspace is to simply access YouTube while signed out of their G Suite account.
You see, the restrictions that you’ve applied to YouTube access only apply when users are signed into their Google Workspace console. That means that if your organization’s network settings are set to Unrestricted YouTube access, users will have full access to YouTube as long as they stay signed out of their G Suite account.
This does only apply when the user is not signed into their account, though. The Admin console settings will conveniently override network or device settings when users are signed in, even if the network settings are more lenient.
The best way to combat users sneaking around the restrictions is to update your network settings to match your Admin console settings to maintain consistency across the organization.
Problem 2: Forgetting to Grant User Permissions
Because you’re in control of who does and doesn’t get unrestricted access to YouTube via Google Workspace, you are also responsible for granting user permissions when they need genuine access to YouTube on company time.
Whether related to a task your employees are working on or troubleshooting a technology issue, YouTube comes in handy for many reasons. In some cases, the user’s ability to progress with their current task could even rely on them gaining access to YouTube promptly.
If you get caught up in your day and forget to grant the user temporary access, it will cause an inevitable bottleneck in their workflow, reducing their productivity in the process.
The best way to prevent this issue from occurring is to grant a trusted supervisor or manager within your organization admin access within G Suite. This means that the responsibility of actioning appropriate permissions for users does not only fall in your lap and can be delegated to a trusted colleague in your absence.
Problem 3: Network Workaround Tricks
With mechanisms such as incognito browsing and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), determined users have plenty of opportunities to work around the organizations’ restricted YouTube access.
Unfortunately, the only thing you can do to physically combat your employees using a VPN, modified URL, or YouTube proxy to access YouTube on company time is to set your network settings to block sites like these.
However, in this instance, we’d recommend implementing clear policies surrounding internet usage within the workplace with reprimands in place for those caught skirting the policies.
At the end of the day, if users understand the company policy on the matter and respect the workplace, they’ll abide by the guidelines and keep internet usage to their personal time.