Four Tips to Prevent Employee Internet Abuse

BlogHR Advice Posted: Tuesday 5th September 2017 by

According to internet security firm, Norton, a quarter of employers have admitted to firing an employee due to misuse of email or the internet at work.

With the CIPD estimating that employers are losing up to £2.5M each year through misuse of technology, and with more than 84% of UK employees able to access unlimited internet usage, employee internet abuse and the expectation of private access amongst your workforce could be a serious problem for your business.

Events like the World Cup and app trends such as Pokemon Go cause internet usage at work to spike. It’s therefore imperative that robust IT policies are in place, and more importantly, that they are reinforced.

In extreme cases, employee abuse of technology can have deeper ramifications. There have numerous incidents of employees getting fired for defamatory remarks on social media, which – true or not – can have adverse effects on an employer’s reputation. Co-worker harassment can also take place online, and if left unmonitored or unreported, can leave your business liable for employment tribunal claims for up to six years.

To prevent your employees from abusing technology in your business, here are four simple steps you should take:

Lay Down the Rules

Communication with your employees is key. Your employee handbook should clearly define your IT policies and the disciplinary action that employees should expect if the rules are broken.

Your IT policy should include all technologies that your employees have access to during the normal course of their work, for example, a company email account, their work computer, laptop, and mobile phone etc., and all personal devices accessed through a business network.

The policy should clearly state what is and what is not allowed to be accessed, and what can and cannot be used for personal purposes.

Consider Putting up Barriers

It is not unusual for a business to put a ‘block’ on access to certain sites if they feel they have an abuse problem in the workplace, or if they are too much of a drain on workforce productivity, such as social media, music and film streaming, shopping and gambling sites, and sites of an adult nature.

In some cases, there are sites that should be accessed by certain employees – such as social media sites for marketing purposes – and not by others. In which case, consider limiting access to a select group of people if necessary.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

Having a robust IT policy and communicating it well is only half the battle. Sitting idly by whilst employees constantly abuse the rules will only make the problem worse. Consistent disciplinary action lets everyone know that the rules are taken seriously and will act as a warning to others.

Keep Things in Perspective

Whilst it’s important to lay out the ground riles with strong IT policies, don’t forget that committed employees will often go above and beyond the call of duty to work hard for your business.

People do have bills to pay and they do need to communicate with family members during working hours – especially those with childcare or elder care arrangements. Bringing disciplinary action against someone who is clearly trying hard to maintain their work-life balance, without it affecting their work performance, is probably not the right thing to do.

For support with your IT policies, employee handbook, or general HR issues, contact our expert team in confidence.

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