Internet Use at the Office

Source: Pixabay

By: Marie Donlon

I once worked for a company without a clear and obvious internet usage policy. Consequently, I was summoned one day into the office of the head of IT where I was notified that my department had the honorable distinction of spending the most time on the internet in the entire company. This was nothing to sneeze at considering that at the time 350 people worked for said company.

Despite a fair amount of visibility in our department, I failed to see that my staff (and myself included, if I am being honest) was spending a great deal of time surfing the web.

While that was some time ago and most companies now have clear and transparent internet usage policies for its employees, some issues are still unclear.

Internet access is a bit of a double-edged sword for employers. While giving employees access to tools that will help them quickly complete tasks and to resources that make obtaining and communicating information much faster, it also opens up a host of problems for managers, including productivity issues and vulnerability to viruses from untrustworthy sites.

Like my former IT department, most companies have software in place to track and determine how much time employees spend doing non-work activities during working hours. Many people use their company internet to shop, look up non-work information, chat with friends and family on social media, and, in worst-case scenarios, it is used to look up inappropriate websites.  

According to a few studies concerning work internet usage:

  • Between 30 and 40 percent of the time spent on the internet at work was spent in the service on non-work related activities.

  • Twenty-eight percent of individuals admitted to purchasing personal items online while working.

  • Seventy percent of all internet porn traffic occurs while the world traditionally works (between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm), suggesting that some people are looking at these sites while on the clock.

To avoid being called on the carpet by your IT head, consider the following:

Don’t Do It

If you are thinking of doing something personal using your company internet or email, consider waiting until you get home. We don’t always read the fine print when we glance through policies and sign conduct agreements. If you aren’t sure what your company’s policy is concerning internet use, avoid using it for personal matters at all costs. Otherwise, overlooked punishments or fines for violating such policies could be considerable, in some instances resulting in termination.

In fact, 28 percent of employers have reported firing employees for using the internet for non-work related activities.

That’s not to say that every company has as strict an internet policy, with some companies even encouraging workers to take internet breaks meant to refresh and reinvigorate employees to take on other tasks.

No Social Media

Many companies block social media sites from their internet. Why? Because sites such as Facebook and Twitter are productivity killers, acting as a vortex that unrelentingly holds you in its grip only to spit you out hours later. If those sites aren’t blocked by your employer, make sure that you avoid them.

Although you might find ways around using your employer’s internet with your personal smartphone, it is unlikely that, no matter how private your account settings are, remarking on or liking another person’s post will guarantee that you will be shielded by the same privacy protections as if you were posting something from your own page. This can bring about a number of concerning issues, the first of which being that whatever post you “like” or comment on during working hours may be visible to others (maybe even to your employer) and complete with a time stamp that shows what you were commenting on when you were supposed to be working.

Check back next week for Part 2 of Internet Use at the Office.