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Surfing the Web at Work

What Employers Are Doing About Employees Surfing the Web at Work


Man working on desktop computer

Personal Surfing at Work Is Widespread

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Employees spend between one and three hours a day surfing the web on personal business at work, depending on the study reviewed. Since most studies depend on employee self-reported data, this productivity loss, combined with the concerns employers have for "where" their employees are surfing the Web at work, causes more employers to monitor employee use of the Internet.

In fact, according to the 2007 results of the annual Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance Survey, conducted since 2001 by the American Management Association (AMA) and The ePolicy Institute, the percentage of employers monitoring their employees' Internet use increases each year.

This article will first take a look at what employers are doing in their surveillance of employees surfing the Web at work, as determined by the survey. And, it will also look at why employers believe they need to monitor employees surfing the Web at work. Another article, Electronic Surveillance of Employees takes a detailed look at the pros and cons of electronic surveillance in the workplace.

From the survey results, 66% of employers are monitoring Internet connections. And, 65% of companies use software to block connections to inappropriate Web sites - a 27% increase since 2001. Additionally, employers are monitoring the use of email and telephones.

Employer Surveillance of Employees Surfing the Web at Work

Employers who block access to employees surfing the Web at work are concerned about employees visiting adult sites with sexual, romantic, or pornographic content (96%); game sites (61%); social networking sites (50%); entertainment sites (40%); shopping/auction sites (27%); and sports sites (21%). In addition, some companies use URL blocks to stop employees from visiting external blogs (18%).

Depending on the company, computer monitoring takes many forms: 45% of employers track content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard; 43% store and review computer files; 12% monitor the blogosphere to see what is being written about the company by employees, and 10% monitor social networking sites. Of the 43% of companies that monitor email, 73% use technology tools to automatically monitor email and 40% assign an employee to manually read and review email.


Why Employers Are Monitoring Employees Surfing the Web at Work

Employers believe this employee surveillance is necessary for employee productivity, legal reasons, the safety of company information, and to prevent an environment of harassment. According to Manny Avramidis, senior vice president of global human resources for the AMA:
"There are primary reasons why employers monitor employee Internet behavior at work, depending on the organization and its employees. Employee productivity is key. Some companies will say that trade secret issues are important, not necessarily because employees intentionally share company information, but employees may not realize the importance to competitors of such items as new product features and organization charts.

"Intranet sites share information employers don't want outsiders to know because of competition and the need to beat competitors to market. Other companies are concerned about fraud as far as data security, making sure information is not being stolen.

"Some companies will say safety and productivity are their key concerns which may involve monitoring employee location via GPS [global positioning satellite], video cameras in production work areas, and security guards to check IDs and the contents of items brought to work. And, other employers will cite potential liability because they have been burned in the courts. Most organizations have some capital to monitor and it's fairly cheap to do it. So they do."

Learn more about employer concerns and actions needed about employees surfing the Web at work.
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