We’ve all been there, pulling up our internet browser just to quickly check something, and then realizing an hour or two later that we’re STILL online, mindlessly following one or another slightly interesting item to a new site, then another and another.
Knowing you are not alone in this online trap may provide some comfort, but if you are a business owner you may be kept up at night worrying that your employees are spending all their time in rabbit holes and no time actually working. I’m here to tell you that this is more than likely not something to worry about. However, there are a few things that SHOULD raise your concern when it comes to employee Internet usage…these include:
Establish an Internet Use Policy and Provide a Copy to all Employees in Writing
- State that e-mail is to be used only for business purposes and e-mail sent on company equipment may be monitored; if possible, have employees sign off on this (to establish no reasonable expectation of privacy)
- Determine whether Internet can be used for any non-business use and provide guidelines (during lunch hours, breaks, etc.)
- Specifically prohibit internet and e-mail use that could expose the company to liability (harassing, defaming, highly sensitive, derogatory, etc.)
- Prohibit downloads to prevent viruses, etc.
Include Social Networking in Internet Policies
- Be clear that any communication by an employee can and will be monitored, including social networking (This is important so that employees can’t argue that they had an expectation of privacy in these profiles (though some cases have held that no one does))
- If you decide to review employee profiles, be sure to be transparent about it; don’t create multiple profiles or pretend to be someone else – be open and honest with employees
- Be aware that certain activities you learn of could be problematic (i.e. – if employees are using social networking sites to organize for better working conditions, you as an employer may likely be violating labor laws by following and/or engaging with this activity. A good rule is to assume that statutes, etc. that apply in real life also apply to online activism/organizing)
Have a Rule Re: Use of Company Names for Social Networking
- Many companies ask employees to use social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to promote the company. However, employees should be told in writing that any screen names or profiles that mention the company (@ComcastBonnie) will be the property of the company if the employee leaves.