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Dated: Aug. 13, 2004
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The Internet has sunk its claws deep in people’s hearts and minds. Users now want to stay connected to the Net all the time so that none of the correspondence is delayed or they don’t miss any opportunity to click on a prize. One tends to forget the amount of manpower that is being consumed while playing lotto online or downloading a new flash game. The gum on the screen is so sticky that nobody gets time to shift his or her eye from the monitor. This is a destructive trait for employees in Mission Critical Environments. Thanks to the proliferation of the Internet in the corporate sector, how employees utilize their online time at workplace is now a critical debate.
Increasingly, companies are finding that workers tend to get sidetracked indulging in personal entertainment or catching up with the friends via Instant Messengers resulting in hours of wasted company time. Employees who do waste precious company time in mindless Net pursuits are termed as CyberSlackers. Over the past three years, several organizations such as The New York Times, Rolls Royce and Xerox have fired workers for abusing company Net accounts. Two popular reasons why more workers are finding themselves out of job are downloading porn and sending out obscene emails to friends and colleagues.In the age of the connected, a company can therefore never expect to meet targets if checks are not applied and policies are not outlined for employees to spend their online time. What factors should organizations keep in mind while drafting the ground rules for their employees?
- Is the time spent in various online non-productive activities an appreciable thing?
- Is the costing of Internet usage worth the company’s monthly expense?
- Is the time spent on the Net beneficial for the company or are the employees wasting a major chunk of the account in individual pursuits?
There are three main reasons why companies should be concerned about their employees’ surf habits:
- Loss of productivity
- Legal liability
- Waste of Bandwidth
Loss of Productivity
If employees are using the Internet for non-work related purposes, then this results in reduced productivity and ultimate loss in profits. On an average, workers browse the Internet more at the office as opposed to the odd few hours at home due to presence of proxy settings on their PCs, which allows full-time connectivity.
The US Treasury Department recently monitored the Internal Revenue Services (IRS)Workforce’s Internet use
They found that activities such as personal email, chat, online shopping and personal finance and stocks accounted for 51% of employee’s time spent online. The top non-work Web activity favored by IRS officials was surfing financial websites. Chat and email ran a close second, followed by miscellaneous activities including visiting adult sites, search requests, and looking at or downloading streaming media.
Time is an asset and a misuse of that asset is just as wrong as the misuses of any of other assets that the company holds. As with any project, meeting a deadline is always a core issue. Internet addiction makes meeting crucial deadlines an impossible task and one never realizes how his precious time is wasted whiling away on the Internet checking horoscope and news trivia.
Employees are betraying their company’s trust and abusing their online time when they download material that is illegal or inappropriate. An employer can face legal risks at the hands of careless employees. Companies are also at legal risk for copyright violation when employees download protected mp3 files or pirated software.
Employees can also sue their employers if a co-worker has downloaded pornographic or racist materials. Clearly, it has become essential for companies to be aware of what there employees are downloading from the Internet, and for them to take steps to avoid liability by introducing employee Internet management strategies. Following habits should not be entertained in a regular office:
- Uploading illegal materials to a public Web site, illegally gained access to a network, server, by hacking or cracking passwords.
- Sending out computer viruses or denial of service attack to the Internet.
- Sending illegal material such as child pornography to co-workers.
- Emailing hate letters or slanderous letters over the Internet.
- Posting unfounded corporate rumors on stock market bulletin boards.
- Sending emails that may offend co-workers and are covered under sexual harassment laws.
- Otherwise engage in similar online behavior.
Employees who are treated with dignity and respect, who take pride in their organization and its ethics, tend to respect the assets of that organization. As stealing pen, stationary, and hardware is unethical. Similarly acting indifferent on the Net during office hours is a bad techie trait.
Waste of Bandwidth
As broadband applications over the Internet continue to become increasingly popular, corporate networks are becoming bottlenecked; Streaming media, mp3 files, video and audio files, large graphic files, are increasing network crashes.For many companies, network quality of service (QoS) may be their most important business asset. If QoS is dragging, so is the company’s ability to keep pace with competition. Today’s Internet lets employees buy products, chat with friends, visit their kids at daycare, listen to Real audio feeds and play interactive games. As a result, the bandwidth increases.
While monitoring and filtering software can be effective for managing current Internet abusers in the workplace, a more effective means of Employee Internet Management is via preventative measures.
- Draft Company Internet access policy
- Company-wide education about proper Net use
Internet Access Policy
Most companies already require employees to sign a basic contract indicating what acceptable Internet use is, the fact that employees may be monitored without indication, and that unacceptable Internet abuse is grounds for termination.
Company-Wide Education About Proper Net Usage
Surprisingly, very few companies offer seminars or educational materials for employees to learn about the ramifications of Internet abuse. By educating employees on how abusing the Internet has a negative impact on both the self and the company, many of these problems outlined in this article may be alleviated.
Boss Plays Big Brother
It is certainly not ethical to poke into someone’s inbox. Given the importance of user privacy in the cyber age, it is important not to overlook how bosses can step over the line, closely monitoring their employee’s surf trails. If your organization is drafting a policy paper for worker’s Net use, make sure it is well balanced in light of the standards set by International privacy advocates. The Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains an archive of information pertinent to work privacy.
Wasting company Internet time, intentionally or otherwise, is wrong. It cuts into our abilities to do the job, to be productive and competitive. And in today’s market place, being competitive is the key to survival. Internet is an excellent research tool and its use should benefit the company’s cause. As workers, our online time should produce new growth strategies for the company rather than mindless IMing.
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