Ever have an employee buying something on eBay at work? How about checking their online profile on a dating site? The recent Hillary Clinton email scandal made me think of how the lines between people's business and personal lives are becoming blurred in part, by technology. In case you had not heard, Ms. Clinton had exclusively used a private email account while serving as Secretary of State.
How does your business handle the issue of defining appropriate use of business resources?
I frequently am asked by clients about the best way to manage this, particularly from clients that employee Millenials (Generation Y'ers). I've always been a fan of creating a "reasonable use" policy that carefully defines the specific approved personal uses of computer/Internet/network resources. If your organization doesn't already have such a policy in place, it probably should.
Let's face it - in this day and age, work environments permeate our lives and our personal activities. The days of working a straight 8-10 hour shift and coming home to forget about the "office" no longer exist. In particular, Generation Y'ers are accustomed to working away from their desk or office within the framework of "flex" work schedules. Millenials have no issues about answering work email outside of traditional business hours, but then in return, they expect their employer to allow them to update their Facebook page while in the office.
Believe it or not, a few years ago we found out that one of our clients' staff members was taking hours out of each day to manage a side business selling items on eBay. Clearly this is beyond the norm for any business to accept. When something like this happens, the business owner’s initial “knee jerk” reaction is often to request some sort of electronic monitoring be installed on every employees' computers. While there are some great programs to do this, I always caution against it. I’ve seen it play out as “big brother” which only alienates the employees from the firm. A better approach is to establish a clear standard of conduct related to appropriate use of company resources and time. Once that’s done, everyone has a clear understanding of what is expected and allowed, freeing them to perform their best.
Here at Connections, certain staff are issued business laptops, which gives them the added flexibility to be productive at work, home, and on the road. We believe that brief and occasional personal use of the email or the Internet is acceptable as long as it is not "excessive" (or inappropriate); occurs during personal time (lunch or other breaks); and does not result in expense or harm to the Company or otherwise violate the Connections policy. In addition, email should not be used to solicit or sell products or services that are unrelated to our business or disrupt the workplace.
If you'd like help with establishing an acceptable use policy for your firm, please drop me a note. I'd be happy to help!