Inappropriate use of the internet at work

Inappropriate use of the internet at work

We’ve all used the internet at work at some point, whether it was to shop in our lunch break or pay a bill quickly, but when does this become excessive and what polices can we put in place to stop the odd browse becoming intrusive and disrupting work time?

The average employee admits to spending 1-3 business hours per day for recreational internet use, and that’s just a conservative estimate. Trawling the web may seem like a harmless pastime, but when it starts to eat away a big chunk of the workday, your business suffers costly repercussions.

When it comes to Internet usage, you don’t want to be too restrictive — but you may need to exercise some level of control over your users’ activities. There has to be a strategy that can help you find a balance that suits your organisation’s needs. There’s a fine line between being Big Brother and keeping employees from wasting too much time on the Internet, but also keeping a happy medium and work/life balance.

According to a recent survey, one of the biggest culprits is surfing the Internet. Specifically, the survey revealed 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites every day at work. Of that group, 39 percent spend one hour or less per week, 29 percent spend 2 hours per week, 21 percent waste five hours per week, and only 3 percent said they waste 10 hours or more doing unrelated activities.

The survey also revealed which websites keep employees most off-task. Not surprisingly, socialising on Facebook occupied 41 percent, while 37 percent use LinkedIn, and 25 percent are shopping at Amazon. Other destinations include Yahoo and Google and to a lesser extent Twitter and Pinterest.  In the day of social media, these results are hardly surprising.

Different employers take differing approaches to internet usage that is not work related. Some employers prohibit personal use of their internet facilities, while others allow employees to access the internet at work for personal use provided that usage is reasonable and/or during breaks. It is advisable for employers to adopt an internet policy that makes clear their approach in relation to employees’ personal use of the internet, and to specify what is permitted in terms of time spent and the types of site that may be visited.

An internet usage policy dictates what is deemed to be appropriate internet browsing behaviour in the workplace. This policy typically enforces time restrictions for employees when browsing the internet for non work-related tasks as well as stipulating what genres of sites they are allowed to browse.

Having an internet usage policy, which can also be referred to as an acceptable use policy (AUP), ensures that employees are following directives that serve to safeguard their work environment and the IT network infrastructure.

Drawing up an internet usage policy is typically the role of both the human resources department and the IT department as it endeavours to protect both the employee as well as the IT network. Therefore collaboration between these two departments is essential to ensure that a comprehensive internet usage policy is formulated according to the needs of the company and then enforced.

There needs to be a balance to maintain good relationships between employee and staff and a sensible approach is one which we finds works best.

For more information on inappropriate use of the internet at work and a policy for this please contact us here.

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Sandra Berns

Centric HR was founded by Sandra Berns, a confident and versatile Human Resources and Organisational Development Practitioner with 25 years demonstrable experience and a Fellow of the CIPD. Sandra has both Operational and Strategic HR expertise across Public and Private sectors and has assisted senior teams in meeting challenging workforce objectives in many corporate environments.