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Making your policy clear will ensure employees know where they stand.

Having clear policies and procedures agreed with an employer makes for a much more pleasant and productive workplace. In the modern office, your policies should include a policy for employees regarding their use of the Internet while at work.

A computer use policy can cover a number of areas, including the hours during which the internet can be used, the kinds of things that can and can't be done and the limits on computer use for personal reasons.

It may be clear how this will be beneficial to employers, but seeing how it is good for employees is a little harder. However, there are real and tangible benefits for employees which we will cover in this article.

Benefits for employers

The internet is now an important tool at work, but it can also be a constant source of distraction that reduces productivity. Whether it’s social media sites, online gaming or internet shopping, there are many ways we can be distracted for hours online. Mark Zuckerberg actually said Facebook was a place to go and waste time.

Selecting particular times when employees can use the internet for personal reasons or limits on the duration of time spent browsing can help to increase productivity. Allowing internet access during lunch breaks and after usual working, times can allow employees to use your work facilities offer an added perk to their employment.

The same goes for using their computer for personal tasks. If your employees are sending personal emails from their work account, writing personal communication or storing pictures on their computers, they are making you liable for their content if it is found to be inappropriate. Making clear what is and isn’t acceptable can save you difficult questions down the line.

Pornography and websites related to illegal activity should almost always be banned from the workplace unless there is a specific reason, such as legitimate research, why they should be accessed. Even though it may seem obvious, it is always safer to state this clearly rather than leaving anything to chance.

As well as the benefits for productivity, there are also legal and governance benefits for being clear with your employees about acceptable computer use at work. As an employer, you are responsible for the traffic that goes through your networks and as such you want to make sure that your employees are not bringing anything unsafe or legal into your workplace. Often, illicit websites are associated with high rate of computer viruses. Accessing or storing anything that could be considered illegal may also place your organisation under unwanted scrutiny.

Benefits for employees

Employees tend to perform better when they know exactly what is expected of them. In organisations where there is less clarity, there is the chance that employees won't be as productive. If an employee is clear on when they should be working, in what way, and what is acceptable, it allows them to plan their working day and put aside time for personal activities that are appropriate to be done in the workplace.

Sometimes, individuals are unaware that what they are doing is inappropriate or even illegal. A clear and well-researched policy on appropriate computer use in the workplace can help inform and educate staff members as well as keep the organisation out of trouble.

An organisation where employees are clear on expectations and boundaries also tends to have higher levels of motivation. Employees generally want to be enthused by their jobs and it is easier to do this when roles and limits are explained. If you feel that an employee it is using their work computer in a way that is inappropriate, if they hadn’t been informed what constitutes inappropriate use they may feel unfairly victimised. This could lead to a breakdown of relationships in work, which almost always have a detrimental effect on employee well-being in the whole team.

Conclusion

It is beneficial for both employees and employers to be clear on what constitutes acceptable computer use. This can boost productivity, morale and make sure that neither the company or the individual employee is falling foul of the law.

Putting an internet usage policy in place is not expensive and could save many difficulties in the future. If you'd like to know more please call Alistair Booth on 01383 695516 or drop him an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.