Preventing your employees from surfing the Internet, using social media or checking personal emails at work is not realistic these days. But employee Internet use can put your business at risk in many ways. How do you maintain the delicate balance between keeping your business’s data safe, keeping your employees productive, and keeping your people happy?
- Be proactive. Checking social networks or taking time out to watch a funny cat video or scan sports scores can actually make people more productive by functioning as a virtual “water cooler” break. But the problem arises when employees start abusing the privilege and spending too much time online. Make it clear to employees that getting their work done comes first. Don’t turn a blind eye—simply getting out of your office, walking around and noticing what employees are doing on their computers will go a long way toward keeping employees’ Internet use in check.
- Create a policy. Security is a big issue when employees go online. Clicking on a suspicious link or opening what appears to be a legitimate attachment is easy to do, but can lead to viruses and data breaches. Start by installing adequate security software and firewalls. Regularly update software and install needed patches. However, keep in mind that the weakest link in the security chain is human nature. Set rules about opening attachments, clicking links, downloading software and other potentially harmful actions, and make sure employees know and follow them.
- Be open. Employees will be more likely to comply with your Internet policy if they know the reasons behind it. For instance, if too many people watching streaming video is slowing down your Internet connection, people will understand the reasons for restrictions vs. just thinking you’re arbitrarily banning certain actions. Similarly, downloading software without checking with your IT person or clicking on links in emails could put your security at risk. Explain the reasons, and you’re more likely to get willing compliance.
- Follow up. If employees are abusing the system, don’t let it slide. Address the issue with the individual employee and set consequences for the actions. Otherwise, your remaining employees will think you don’t care and you’ll see the behavior spread.
You can also install monitoring software that records employees’ keystrokes, their emails and the websites they visit on their work computers, and alerts you about potential problems—though that can seem a bit extreme. Check out the Top Ten Monitoring software programs to learn more.