Back when the internet first became available and widely used in business settings, restrictions were pretty strict for employees using company computers for personal uses. The practice was mostly banned, or in more relaxed workplaces restricted to certain times like lunch breaks. Today almost everyone owns at least one smart device capable of connecting to the internet, maybe more.
So how should a company police usage for the internet at work today?
While it has to be acknowledged that having complete control over the internet access during the workday is very difficult without becoming oppressive to employees, there are also a number of security issues to think about and some controls need to be in place.
Even if you accept some internet access for personal reasons, there should also be clear policy and rules in place with regard to internet access and tech usage in the office.
The internet can be very distracting and it is always available on a smartphone with social media notifications and app alerts popping up regularly trying to capture the workers attention. While a few organisations ban mobile phones during the day, not many companies do this as it would be very unpopular with staff.
Cyberslacking is a term used to describe an office worker who looks busy on a device but is actually not being productive with work tasks.
The employee may be engaging with messaging apps with friends or family, browsing the internet and using company bandwidth, emailing personal contacts from company email accounts, or posting on social media sites creating distractions and potentially being a security risk.
Way to control internet use
It is difficult to monitor and police all internet usage in any sized business.
However by having a clear internet usage policy in place the business can set standards and sanction anyone who is blatantly breaking the rules. The rules should apply to both company and personal devices brought into work.
The policy that you implement should be a part of any new employee induction and adherence to the policy should be included in the employment contract terms and conditions. The policy should also clearly outline what will happen in the event of employees breaking the internet usage policy.
With the policy in place there is also the opportunity to provide staff training and teach them the impact of unauthorised internet usage at work and the impact on the business.
The IT department should also block untrusted and dangerous websites by creating a blacklist. This could also apply to sites that are distasteful and not relevant to work.
Internet usage working from home
Distraction from the internet for employees working from home can be even greater than in the office. With no supervision over their activities it may be easier to get distracted and as a result be less productive on work tasks.
IT software can offer a form of solution in monitoring systems which can record how much work is getting done. The technology behind these tools are not too complicated, it often uses screencapture and other interactive elements to measure the amount of work being done. These systems can be useful in managing workflow and assigning tasks too, but you should also be careful about how they are introduced with employees as they may feel untrusted and resentful of being monitored.
Since the start of the lockdown, these systems have become more popular and some tracking systems allow managers to offer positive feedback and praise to remote workers meaning the tools can have a positive impact.
Business leaders should set the example
High level staff should also follow the same internet usage policy as other employees to set the best example eand et buy-in from everyone.
Creating realistic targets and motivational goals for productivity and achievements with real-time data and feedback can be a good way to encourage employees to avoid overuse of the internet for personal tasks during the workday.
It’s pretty clear to everyone that internet enabled devices and gadgets are always around us creating distractions. This is only likely to increase in the future, so installing some clear guidelines and programmes to encourage staff to focus on work is a good idea for maximising productivity.
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