By Ryan Williams, TechBetter.com - My advice to people regarding Internet usage at work is "don't test the system." With the proper equipment in place, monitoring employee Internet usage requires very little effort. Internet monitoring systems flag suspicious traffic and automatically alert the powers that be. No one has to be sitting at a computer watching the Internet traffic flow through the system to catch non-business related surfing.
To Employers: It is a good idea to have a clear documented Internet usage policy for your organization. Surprisingly, many organizations still do not have this. I also suggest having each employee sign this policy to indicate they have read it, understand it, and agree to abide by it.
To Employees: While most employers do not care if employees visit the occasional personal site, some organizations have a zero tolerance policy. Interestingly enough, I have yet to see a single manager gain any pleasure from monitoring Internet usage. In fact, they pretty much universally dislike it. They do, however, see it as a necessity for the following three reasons.
1. Employers are concerned about employee productivity. It is easy to lose hours of productivity each day by surfing the Internet without even realizing it. A 2007 survey found that the average employee wastes 1.7 hours per day on non-business related Internet activities. That equates to a full 8 hour day wasted each week.
2. Employers are concerned about lawsuits. Many a lawsuit has been filed because someone saw something inappropriate on a company computer screen.
3. Employers are concerned about security. Some non-mainstream websites are riddled with viruses, spyware, malware and many other types of bad "ware."
I suggest everyone understand exactly where their company stands on this issue and abide by the policies set in place. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and the like are not worth the potential consequences. So, from a consultant who hates being the person often caught in the middle, please, don't test the system.