In the great debate over how to keep employees from wasting company time on the Internet, one argument is to cut off Internet access to all employees who don't need it to do their jobs. Here's the downside I see to that approach: Employees who are time wasters will find other ways to waste time and those who aren't time wasters may be offended that you won't trust them with an Internet connection. A "No Internet" policy is likely to lead to employees hiding out in the bathroom or break room to use the Internet on their smartphones. The more brazen employees won't even hide but will sit at their desks and log on through their hand held devices.
So what's the answer? Train your supervisors to concentrate on employee performance and address problems from there. In her latest Eileen's Eye on the Net column, employment law attorney Eileen Johnson offers these words of wisdom:
The task for HR professionals is to educate supervisors to better identify when employees are failing to meet their work objectives. What if a supervisor suspects an employee is spending too much time online with nonwork activities? She can ask the IT staff to monitor the employee's online activity and determine how much time he is spending on sites that aren't work-related. With that information, the employee can be counseled about the dereliction of his duties.
In addition to training supervisors to identify and handle performance issues, you should make sure your employee handbook includes statements that you have the right to monitor e-mail and Internet usage and that there is no expectation of privacy when using any communication device you provide. While it's a good practice to have employees sign a statement that they have been provided with a copy of the employee handbook (or access to it on the company's intranet site), you can take that one step further and have employees sign a statement acknowledging that Internet access is provided for the performance of their work and that any personal access at the office should be minimal.
A simple performance-based policy and system will help you avoid accusations of favoritism ("But she plays on Facebook all day, why doesn't she get in trouble?") or even problems that come with simple oversight (maybe she is on Facebook all day but is good at hiding it) and skip straight to the real problem — whether the work is getting done (and getting done well).
– Celeste Blackburn
Technology for HR manual and HR Laws subscribers' tip: Get tips for writing your Internet use policies and more online.
Eileen Johnson is an attorney with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston L.L.P. in Baltimore, Maryland. She has more than 25 years of experience advising nonprofit organizations and associations on a wide variety of legal issues and writes a monthly column, "Eileen's Eye on the Net," for Maryland Employment Law Letter.
Need help crafting your electronic workplace policies? The Technology for HR manual gives you policy pointers as well as talking points to bring up with employees.
Thanks to M. Lee Smith Publishers LLC / HR Hero