By Dan Darabaris
While internet use is necessary for many jobs, personal use of the internet (online shopping, engaging on social media, general searches, watching videos, reading and sending emails, etc.) can impact a company on many levels. It’s important to have a policy in place to protect the organization and let employees know what they can and can’t do on their work computers.
How Personal Internet Use Can Hurt the Company
Sitting in front of a computer all day, it’s tempting to let fingers wander away from work tasks to something more interesting. Maybe do a bit of shopping or scroll through social media feeds to see what everyone’s up to. The more time employees spend wandering, the less time they’re spending on their tasks. And less productivity means less profits. But it’s more than just the bottom line. When employees visit sites, they expose the company to dangerous viruses and cybersecurity threats that can result in unwanted access to proprietary data, client information or worse. And if employees access graphic materials, there’s also the issue of a hostile work environment.
Implementing a Personal Internet Use at Work Policy
Having a policy in place should hopefully deter employees from misusing work computers and the company network. Whether the policy is included within an employee handbook or provided separately, it’s important to have the employee sign a document saying they have received a copy.
The policy should:
- State that employees shouldn’t expect anything they create on their business computers to be private, that such data belongs to the company
- Note that company-owned equipment can be monitored at any time and without notice, along with how it will be monitored, i.e., search history, downloads, hard drives
- Specify what is allowed and what is prohibited – you can make your list of what is prohibited as detailed as you like
- Define and provide examples of what constitutes personal internet use at work and improper use of company-owned equipment
- Notify employees of the consequences of violating the policy, such as a write up or termination of employment
To ensure you cover everything and are not violating any employee rights under federal or state law, you should consult your HR team and legal counsel when drafting the policy.