The benefits of allowing employees monitored Internet access, instead of extensive blocking and filtering, have been explored in previous blogs. In essence, an effective monitoring solution will assist in maximizing employee productivity, identifying download issues, improving network management and minimizing litigation risks.
Something of great importance is taking the users of the network you intend to monitor into consideration. Overly intrusive practices can easily create the negative perception that Big Brother is watching and make employees feel frustrated and uncomfortable. Effective Internet monitoring requires a two-pronged approach; intuitive monitoring software AND workforce education / consideration.
This time around I would like to expand on the best ways of monitoring your organizational Internet usage whilst maintaining a harmonious working environment between employers and employees.
1. Allow for a certain amount of personal / recreational usage
Prohibiting all personal use is usually both impractical and virtually impossible to enforce in most work environments. Allowing a certain amount of (monitored) online recreation can enhance many workplaces and ultimately make employees more productive. Recent research by Dr Brent Coker at the University of Melbourne shows that people who do surf the Internet for fun at work – within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t.
2. Allow for a certain amount unmonitored usage
Employee privacy is a recurring concern when monitoring Internet usage at work. Employees are working longer hours than they ever before and might need to be able to deal with urgent personal matters online, during work time. By specifying and ensuring, that there will be no monitoring during lunch hours (for example), your employees can trust that their privacy is important to you, and you know it won’t affect their productivity.
3. Establish Acceptable Internet Usage Policies
Establish policies around Internet usage and:
- Explain the business-related reasons behind monitoring
- Clearly state what is considered productive and unproductive activity
- If you allow a certain amount of personal use, and / or unmonitored use during certain hours of the day, ensure you outline the exact specifications of these privileges
- Clearly state what is absolutely prohibited, for example, sending or accessing discriminatory, harassing, defamatory, or pornographic material, downloading or distributing copyrighted material without permission etc
- Include consequences for policy violations
4. Use an honest and open monitoring approach
The effectiveness of Internet monitoring directly relates to employees’ awareness of the content of the policy and corresponding breach consequences. Once your crystal clear policies have been developed, ensure you actively distribute, publish and communicate them so employees understand exactly what is expected of them and the conditions of their working environment.
5. Allow employees to view their own Internet usage
This is one of the best recommendations we can give you. More often than not, employees tend to underestimate the time they spend browsing non-work related sites. Allowing employees to view, for example, their productive and non-productive activity can help foster and drive responsible Internet usage behaviour. Employees who understand the organizational costs of their personal unproductive activities are more likely to accept your monitoring activities and modify their own behaviour accordingly.
6. Monitor the whole organization (even managers)
If you ensure everyone knows the whole organization is being monitored, as opposed to individual users or departments, you will decrease the likelihood employees feeling singled out or treated unfairly. Employees feel affirmed if procedures are adopted to treat them with respect and dignity and the likelihood of Internet monitoring acceptance and effectiveness is increased.
7. Help employees sticking to the rules
If you have set a limit of, for example, no more than 10 hours of recreational surfing per month, then ensure you alert employees when they are approaching that limit. Again, this will give the employees another opportunity to modify their own behaviour before they actually violate your Acceptable Internet Usage Policy.
8. Distribute reports – distribute responsibility
Frequently IT managers and administrators are given the ultimate responsibility of managing, enforcing and communicating acceptable Internet usage for an entire organization. Take some of the pressure off the IT department and distribute organizational Internet activity reports to responsible managers or department heads. This will enable them to see how Internet usage affects the security and performance of their own department and distributes the responsibility of enforcing acceptable usage with the managers themselves.
9. Protect employee privacy
If distributing Internet usage reports across your organization it is important to protect employees’ personal data. Make sure you use monitoring software designed to protect privacy rights by only allowing authorized users to see the employee’s identity. For instance, Network Administrators may need to investigate all traffic going to a particular site but should not need to know the user names – in this case user names should be anonymous for them but available for HR.
Find a monitoring solution that easily lets you customize and automate the majority of these guidelines for you. Right here might be a good place to start looking…
What do you think of these tips? Please feel free to comment below and share Internet monitoring tips that have assisted you in creating a productive and balanced working environment.