About Me

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United States
I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Employers & Internet Restrictions

Working at the Federal Executive Board, I have experienced the most restrictions with using the internet in the office. Apparently, my office was not as restricted as other U.S. agencies but it was still rather bothersome when I was attempting to conduct research. What does internet restrictions/monitoring communicate to employees? How can organizations with internet restrictions continue to develop strong relationships with personnel?

Let's face it... everyone checks their e-mail at work. If the office computers are restricted, people can easily access their Facebook or e-mail using their blackberries or iPhones. My personal belief is that organizations need to show trust in their employees and therefore, if any restrictions are put on websites, then it should be communicated to employees.

For example, my co-worker and I use to stream music through Pandora while we worked. It was not counterproductive to our work and did not bother anyone. One day, I came in and saw that Pandora would not load. After several days, it still would not load and my co-worker was having the same issue. We eventually realized that it was blocked but we did not know why. Both of us felt betrayed and frustrated since we were not doing anything wrong. As I did more research, I found that Pandora requires a drastic amount of bandwidth and therefore it can slow down the internet speed for the rest of the building. If IT had taken the time to send out a short e-mail stating that Pandora was blocked and why, I imagine that I would have been more understanding.

From this experience, I have learned that communication about restrictions is vital. Many companies are starting to block Facebook and Twitter. It has been suggested that this decrease employee affiliation with the organization. In addition, these social media sites are becoming tools for many organizations. It is clear they are used for recruitment but it can also assist in staying up to date on the competition or communicating with other personnel around the world.

I suggest that organizations that wish to restrict specific internet sites should provide a list of the websites (possibly on paper or intranet) and the reason they have been restricted. Allowing employees to see this informations communicates that there is a valid reason for the restriction and it is not meant to be personal. I advocate that future restrictions should be communicated to all personnel immediately.

I will admit that the internet is a gray area. There are individuals that will surf the internet all day for personal use. Therefore, I do feel a company is within its right to monitor all internet activity (especially if one is using their equipment or internet access).If a company decides to monitor the internet, it is recommended to have all employees sign a waiver. This could explain why monitoring is done, that all information will be visible to the IT department, at what point disciplinary action can be taken, and the warning process. It should also mention a percentage or amount of time that an employee is allowed to use the internet for personal use. Without this formal declaration, an organization has limited power to terminate an employee that uses the internet for personal use. These guidelines assist the staff in understanding the expectations and help the organizations ensure that their resources are not being abused.

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