Maintaining Consistent Policies To Control Internet Abuse

Abuse of the Internet at work can be prevented by defining what activities are deemed abusive. At this point, management must establish policies governing employee use of the Internet and e-mail that will not sway for any persons at any time.

Some managers consider personal use of the Internet to be employee theft. They are rightfully concerned about lost work time, use of corporate equipment and software to run other (perhaps competing) businesses, and potential legal liabilities if employees engage in illegal activities. Meanwhile, there are managers who take a more liberal view, considering personal Internet use to be productive play. In their companies, productivity is measured more by outcomes and trust rather than how each minute is spent.

Many people in the field of information systems do not view personal use of the Internet as theft and are quite upset that others would. Senior management certainly has the option of banning all employees from having personal use of the Internet during work hours. However, policing this policy could be a daunting task, especially since the senior management might want to make personal use of company equipment and time to surf the Internet.

If senior management decides to permit limited personal use of the Internet, they should have a policy-making meeting that involves tech managers, human resources managers and representatives of different levels of employees. At this, point a number of factors will have to be measured: The number of hours employees typically work, including the work environment, the various legal implications of personal Internet use, the need for creativity in some jobs, the stress level of the workplace, and the organizational structure. The level of access that is allowed to employees would be determined at this meeting.

Senior management should consider some sort of compromise in determining the personal use of the Internet. Whatever is decided must be clearly communicated to all the employees. Disciplinary actions that will be taken if employees violate the policies must also be clearly defined and communicated.