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Surfing the Web at Work

What Employers Are Doing About Employees Surfing the Web at Work

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More Employer Concerns About Surfing the Web at Work

In addition to the concern about the kinds of sites employees are visiting at work for these reasons, a number of additional concerns motivate employers to monitor employees surfing the Web at work.

Litigation is a serious issue to employers said Nancy Flynn, executive director of The ePolicy Institute and author of The ePolicy Handbook, 2nd Edition (AMACOM, 2008) and other Internet-related books. "Concern over litigation and the role electronic evidence plays in lawsuits and regulatory investigations has spurred more employers to monitor online activity."

"Workers' e-mail and other electronically stored information create written business records that are the electronic equivalent of DNA evidence." Flynn noted that 24% of employers have had email subpoenaed by courts and regulators and another 15% have battled workplace lawsuits triggered by employee email, according to the 2006 AMA / ePolicy research.

According to Avramidis,

"There are more and more employers placing employee computer use under surveillance because the technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper. No matter how you feel about it, employers that don't monitor will become fewer and fewer, not to nail employees, but because monitoring increasingly makes business sense. It's only going to become more and more significant in America. Employees really need to read and be aware of policies.

"Employers should establish policies to be clear with employees about their employment relationship. A policy acts as a deterrent. In Florida, as an example, it is not unusual to park police cars by the road over night as a deterrent to motorists speeding.

"Where employers often fall short is that they tell employees that they will be monitored but they don't describe exactly what behavior is expected or not expected. To explain exactly what their expectations are about the policy is important. Educating the employees and explaining the definition of what is fair and acceptable Internet and email use annually is recommended."

While only two states, Delaware and Connecticut, currently require employers to notify employees of electronic monitoring, the majority of employers are doing a good job of alerting employees when they are being watched.

According to the survey, 83% of employers inform employees that the company is monitoring content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard; 84% let employees know the company reviews their computer use; and 71% alert employees to email monitoring.

This is one of the survey results that Avramidis finds doubtful. He believes that the percentage of employers who inform their employees about monitoring is higher but the employees miss the information. "Most employees receive policies regarding use of office business tools and privacy issues on the first day of employment, but too often they don't read them," says Avramidis.

It would behoove employees to understand their employer's Internet, email, and computer policies and expectations. According to the survey results, over half of all employers surveyed had fired employees for email and Internet abuse. The 28% of employers who have fired workers for email misuse did so for these reasons: violation of a company policy (64%); inappropriate or offensive language (62%); excessive personal use (26%); breach of company confidentiality rules (22%); or other (12%).

The 30% of bosses who have fired employees for Internet misuse gave these reasons: viewing, downloading, or uploading inappropriate / offensive content (84%); violation of any company policy (48%); excessive personal use (34%); or other (9%).

Know your employer's policies about Internet and email use. Because the percentage of employers monitoring computer behavior is rising every year, what you don't know or pay attention to, could hurt your standing with your employer. Most employers don't mind "some" or a small amount of computer use for personal business at work. Know how your employer defines "some."

Source Information

In the Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance Survey, done by the American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, which forms the basis for the information provided in this article, 304 U.S. companies participated: 27% represent companies employing 100 or fewer employees; 27% represent employers employing 100-500 employees;12% represent employers with 501-1,000 employees; another 12% represent employers with 1,001-2,500 employees; 10% of the employers interviewed have 2,501-5,000 employees and, finally; 12% of the employers in the survey have 5001 or more employees.

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