According to a recent Gallup poll, the average employee spends over 75 minutes per day using office computers for non-business related activity. Unfortunately, that mismanaged time translates into an annual loss of $6250 per year, per employee. Over time and across employees, that number adds up. Any expert will tell you that an employee monitoring solution will increase employee productivity and provide a safeguard in the event of inappropriate employee behavior, but here are three ways to stop in-office Internet abuse on the face-to-face, cultural level on top of the technical solution.
The Best Policy is to Have a Policy
Allowing employees unlimited access to the Internet is an open invitation for wasted time and decreased productivity which creates a loss of profits for the business owner. However, it’s often necessary to your critical business functions. As an employer, the best way to protect your company from employee Internet abuse at work is to establish clear guidelines regarding their use of company equipment. Identify legitimate uses for the Internet during company time. Remind them that you have hired them to do a specific job and they have an obligation to deliver, even if that means postponing their shopping expedition until lunchtime. As with any new company policy, you will gain compliance much more readily if you make your employees stakeholders in the process.
Don’t Restrict Access, Unduly
Let’s face it. The Internet has become such a part of our daily life that restricting total access to the Internet is going to create a culture of resentment among the office staff, and may restrict workflow in its own right. As we’ve mentioned, one easy way to implement restrictions is to combine filters on inappropriate sites in the workplace, and invest in a monitoring service to detect problems. These aren’t suffocating limitations, but it’s important to make your enforcements known. Let your employees know that you visually inspect the browser caches of your company-issued laptops, or the “cookies” file folder. With regard to employees using the Internet at work, place your electronic traffic cops in plain site as well, so employees know where they can be found.
Don’t Ignore Abusers
‘Abusers’ may sound like a harsh term, but if you discover an employee grossly mismanaging their office time and equipment, you need to help them get back on track with productivity goals. Assuming your goals are reasonable, employees will be less likely to waste company time on any activity if they know they have a deadline or a specific job to do. Check in and review their progress.
The Bottom Line
In an age when employees are used to using the Internet virtually non-stop, both in the workplace and at home, issues of abuse and misuse can have considerable negative impacts on office productivity, and even the lifespan of your company equipment, especially in small businesses with few employees. Plus, inappropriate sites — especially pornography and pirating sites – very often lead to inadvertent downloads of dangerous malware, which can jeopardize the safety and integrity of your office network and information infrastructure. At the end of the day, the key beyond monitoring solutions (which can prove to be a crucial role in enhancing your literal bottom line) is total transparency throughout the workplace. Let your employees know how and why you intend to monitor and enforce company equipment usage. We’d all like to be as productive as possible, right? That’s the bottom line.