Cyberslacking: Establishing an Office Policy for Protection7 Feb, 2006 By: Dennis Abraham imageSource
Cyberslacking: Establishing an Office Policy for Protection
since Andrew Carnegie has really believed employees work every minute of each
work day. If his theory was true, what has been going on around the water cooler
all of these years? But procrastination on the Internet is more insidious than
taking a couple minutes to talk about this week's episode of 24.
Unlike the water cooler, the Internet is interruptive, addictive, and it’s front
and center on every desk. Somebody even came up with a name for the new digital
In late November, it was widely reported that the Monday following Thanksgiving
was the biggest day of the year for online shopping. The reason: people waited
to return to work—where high-speed Internet is readily available—to place their
The Internet, however, poses more serious problems to your company than wasted
time. Employees can download massive programs, download potentially dangerous
viruses, or even download vulgar or insulting attachments that—if seen by other
employees—may be considered harassment and lead to legal action.
Your employees should know that their electronic mail, including instant
messaging (IM), can be subpoenaed in legal and regulatory suits. Several
high-profile criminal cases have made that clear. Groups like the American
Management Association even recommend monitoring and managing IM. But how do you
keep the benefits of the Internet while protecting your company from its
In less than a decade, an entire industry has grown up around this issue. Scores
of Employee Internet Management (EIM) companies offer software that will monitor
everything from your employee’s eBay purchases to the number of keystrokes
performed. Software can block the websites an employee views and store messages
so you can download them later on your own computer.
If you feel your situation is serious enough to warrant EIM, be sure to let your
employees know they are being monitored and explain why. Protect yourself by
putting your cards on the table. But be careful. While simply informing your
employees of monitoring may be enough to solve your Internet problem, it may
also be enough to drive away some people you’d rather keep. Trust works both
ways in the workplace.
If becoming “Big Brother” is not quite where you want to be, start by setting an
Internet policy and writing it into your handbook and future employee contracts.
In formulating your policy, you may want to open the discussion to your
employees. Let them help you decide when it’s okay to use the company computer
for personal use (at lunch hour and/or on break).
Be precise about stating what’s off limits such as downloading company software,
accessing pornography, distributing private company documents, using other
people’s passwords, and employing vulgar language. Be clear about the
consequences of not heeding those limits.
You also need to have strict guidelines regarding email communication. Can
employees use company email for personal use? Can they use company computers to
access their personal email over the Web or by accessing their POP3 email
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what is written on company email is
the same as putting it on your company letterhead and broadcasting it to the
world. You should have a company policy and regularly remind all employees of
You probably already have a written policy about personal telephone calls in the
office. Having an Internet connection on every desk is much the same as having a
telephone. But, like the times we live in, it’s much more complicated.
Dennis Abraham is the president of HRAnswerLink, a consulting firm that
provides independent dealers with HR expertise. HRAnswerLink Web and consulting
services are available to NOPA dealers at a discounted rate. Visit
www.hranswerlink.com/nopa or call 877.882.2237.
For companies interested in implementing Employee Internet Management, here are
a few software companies that can be researched:
ContentWatch (www.contentwatch.com) offers ContentWatch 2.0, an
application that enables administrators to review where employees are spending
their time online. ContentProtect Professional's filter can be set to block
specific websites, domains and chat rooms.
Wavecrest Computing (www.wavecrest.com) has two suites, Cyfin and Cyblock
products. Both software suites provide real time Web usage reports.
Spectorsoft (www.specotrsoft.com) offers Spector Pro 5.0 contains seven
integrated tools that record chats, instant messages, emails sent and received,
websites visited, keystrokes typed, and programs launched.