Your employees need the internet in order to do their jobs. But the internet is a double-edged sword of sorts – while it enables employees to do important work, it also makes millions of time-wasting and potentially dangerous websites available for your employees to access on your business’s devices and network. Is internet monitoring the answer? Have a look at our guide to internet monitoring for business owners and managers.
How Big of a Problem is Cyber-Slacking?
Is it really a problem for employees to check their email or update their Facebook status online? Surveys suggest that most employees aren’t trying to spend undue amounts of time on personal business online. One survey found that 39% of respondents spent an hour or less a week on non-work-related activities. Only about 3% of respondents reported spending 10 hours or more on personal activities during work time.
However, this can add up to a lot of lost dollars for companies. If four employees are spending 10 hours a week on personal tasks online, you’re paying the equivalent of one full-time salary for employees to do their online shopping or banking from work. This can add up quickly and become a big loss for the company.
There’s also the chance of an employee encountering a computer virus or other type of malware while visiting an unapproved site, which can cost the company in damage to the company network and devices, client relations, and public trust.
Is Employee Internet Monitoring the Answer?
Used correctly, internet monitoring and web filtering software can be an effective and ethical way to increase productivity and security.
Monitoring employee’s internet activity is one way to keep an eye on what your employees are doing online, but is it the best solution? There are several concerns to consider. Employees often dislike the idea of their web activity being monitored. They can feel that they’re being micromanaged or mistrusted, and they may also have privacy concerns. And in some cases, there are good reasons for them to have privacy concerns.
Without setting granular rules internet monitoring rules, it can be easy for companies to glean too much information about their employees. There are both ethical and legal reasons why companies need to be careful about what kind of data they collect on their employees and what they do with that data.
However, these days, a majority of companies use employee monitoring or web filtering software to ensure employees are adhering to company internet use policies. In legal cases, courts have frequently decided in favor of an employer’s right to perform some type of employee monitoring. There are definitely ways to overstep ethical and legal boundaries, so it does pay to be careful and judicious about the way that you use employee monitoring and internet monitoring software in your company.
Handled correctly, the implementation of employee internet monitoring software doesn’t have to cross the line or negatively impact morale, and it can prove to be a great benefit to the company, increasing productivity and improving security.
Using Internet Content Filtering and Monitoring Software Ethically
Providing employees with transparent information about your monitoring policies can help keep workplace morale stable.
There are steps that you can take to ensure that your company is using internet monitoring software ethically. A good place to start is with researching the laws that apply to your company and making sure that you’re in compliance with them. While there are no federal laws that prohibit the monitoring of employees of private companies, individual states may have their own laws that you need to follow.
And if you do business internationally, you may be bound by laws implemented in other countries, like the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that recently went into effect in Europe. Consult with an attorney who has experience with local or international internet privacy laws as needed in order to make sure that all of your bases are covered.
Another important aspect of using web monitoring software ethically is transparency when it comes to communications with employees. It’s understandable that morale might be affected in a company where employees discover after the fact that their internet and web browsing activities have been monitored at work. Even when employees suspect that their company may be doing some kind of monitoring, having that confirmed can be stressful. But when the issue is addressed up front with employees, the company avoids the appearance of being deceptive or underhanded.
Explanation and Training Essential
Part of the implementation of an employee internet monitoring plan should include an explanation of what is being monitored and why. For example, employees should know whether or not their keystrokes are being logged, or whether the monitoring merely includes recording which websites they visit and how long they spend on those websites.
Companies should also be mindful of ethics when deciding how to use the data that they collect on their employees. Employees will want to know that their health data won’t be used against them when it’s time to make decisions about promotions or terminations, for example. Morale also suffers when employees feel that their company is looking for reasons to punish them.
It’s important to show that your purpose is to collect data that will benefit the company and help employees do their jobs more effectively, not just to catch them in the act of visiting Facebook. In some cases, you can collect employee-blind data that you can use to spot patterns in your company that can be addressed with additional training or support.
Monitoring is about more than just collecting evidence for disciplinary actions, and explaining this to employees can help them better understand and accept the value of internet monitoring.
The Internet Usage Policy
Part of communicating with your employees includes making sure that they understand your expectations for how they will use the internet during work hours and on working related policies. You can do this with an internet usage policy – a document that sets out your company’s computer, email, and internet rules and explains your monitoring policies in plain language.
An internet usage policy protects both the company and the employee, and asking your employees to read, understand, and sign the company’s internet usage policy ensures that all parties are on the same page.
InterGuard employee monitoring software provides all of the tools your company needs for effective, ethical, and legal internet monitoring and web filtering. To find out more about how it can work for your company, start your free 7-day trial.