Studies, surveys, and statistics consistently report that employees frequently use the Internet for non-work-related activities.
Vault reported that 87 percent of employees used their work computer for personal surfing. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project 28 percent of employees acknowledged they bought gifts online while at work. The Hudson Internet Use Survey found that 23 percent of employees admitted to Web searching for a new job from their desk!OK. It’s time to stop the time-wasting and implement a policy that bans all non-work-related Internet and monitor everyone, right? Try this and you are likely to anger employees, have a hard time enforcing policies, and make their work-life time crunch harder.
Sounds fair — but shouldn’t shopping be prohibited? I say no. Think about the extra time an employee would need to get to the mall to buy a gift on their lunch during the holiday season.Yes, you should explicitly prohibit viewing inappropriate material and sending harassing e-mails. This can be coordinated with your policy on harassment and discrimination. Pornography is not approved break-time viewing. Should you monitor? It’s your decision. I once got a call from the monitoring department of a client for using the word “sex” in an e-mail. I was reviewing an employee opinion survey that asked respondents whether they were male or female. Following up on each situation that monitoring uncovers can be really time-consuming. If you are going to monitor, you have to be consistent in how you use the information.
Rather than trying to prohibit all Web usage not related to work, communicate a policy that reminds employees that computers are company property and the company will check and monitor when it’s necessary. You can recover e-mails and Web site viewing records. So if an employee is not getting their work done and you find them checking airfares for a vacation, take action. If you see an employee checking hospital visiting hours so they can see a sick relative, tell them you hope their family member gets well soon!