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Tips for developing an Internet usage policy

Developing an internet usage policy

Today’s business world is full of online distractions. Personal email, games, social media, and shopping sites are all elements that can contribute to both a plummet in workplace productivity as well as network security risks. Ideally, a solid work ethic would keep your employees on task throughout the day and away from online distractions, however this is not always the case.

Understanding the risk 

The ways in which your employees use the Internet during work hours can subject your company to certain vulnerabilities and legal issues. The first step in reviewing the effectiveness of your policy is to understand the potential risks that Internet usage can have on your business.

Potential for harassment claims

Employees who visit offensive or inappropriate websites can have serious implications for your business. If other employees witness this kind of Internet usage, or worse yet if managers are aware of this activity but fail to take action, it could lead to feelings of a hostile work environment or other harassment claims.

Lost productivity

Time spent surfing the web is time away from making money for your business. Numerous studies place the cost of lost productivity resulting from improper Internet usage in the billions of dollars. Furthermore, employees who use the Internet to stream videos and music or download files can cause company Internet speeds to slow, making it harder for other staff members to get work done.

Vulnerability to security issues

If your employees have full reign to search and visit any website they please, your company can become vulnerable to various security risks that can lead to financial losses for your company. For instance, being afflicted with spyware programs and viruses can result in issues like data corruption or compromised financial accounts.

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How to improve your Internet usage policy

A good Internet usage policy helps your employees understand exactly how you expect them to spend their time and what online activities are prohibited during work hours. Take the following tips into consideration to ensure that your internet usage policy is working for your business.

1. Involve your legal team

Whether you’re updating your internet usage policy or starting from scratch, be sure to engage your legal team or an HR Professional in this process. Recent changes in employment law have had profound impacts on the scope of social media policies. Ask your SME to review every element of the policy to ensure that it is effectively protecting your company. You should also involve your IT department and management team as their feedback and insight will be important.

2. Consider the needs of your organization

Every company is unique so don’t be afraid to cater your Internet usage policy to the specific needs and functions of your organization. Take time to review and talk to each department in order to ensure that the Internet usage policy is supporting, not limiting your staff’s ability to succeed.

3. Look for loopholes and perform tests

Keep an eye out for ways that determined employees could bypass certain rules or restrictions, such as switching computers, accessing sites from their personal devices, or abusing the policy while working remotely. Address these loopholes in your policy and work to find solutions. You may also want to consider performing tests to ensure that the policy is practical and that all web monitoring or blocking software is functioning correctly.

4. Educate your employees

It’s not enough to create a policy–you must ensure that your employees understand and agree (with a signature) to those rules. Clearly communicating the extent of your policy will help you avoid confusion and potential legal challenges down the road. Furthermore, it’s beneficial to provide reminders about the policy on occasion, like during the holiday season and/or when any changes are implemented.

Have a question for one of our HR experts? To learn more about this issue or to schedule a free consultation on the advantages of human resources outsourcing, contact simplicityHR.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.

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