Controlling Employee Computer Usage Without Being The "Thought Police"
Even the smallest of businesses use computers and email these days.
Interoffice communication, correspondence with customers, placing orders with vendors…you name it, it’s all computerized.
Small businesses use computers for virtually everything. If you provide company owned computers to your employees, you need to give serious thought to exactly how those computers are being used.
If you don’t have a written policy on Internet email use, your employees may unreasonably expect a certain level of privacy in their emails.
You need a written policy so everyone understands exactly how company provided Internet and email are to be used. Here are a few things to consider when developing your policy:
1. Proper Use of Email. Are you okay with employees using company email for personal communication? If not, then everyone needs to know that. Your company policy needs to be as specific as possible in outlining the rules for the use of company email, especially during work hours.
2. Workplace Rules are Workplace Rules. Make sure that everyone knows that the same rules that apply to conduct at the office also apply to conduct online. Harassment, discrimination, and other unprofessional and/or illegal behavior will not be tolerated online any more than they would be tolerated in the physical workplace.
3. Yes, We Will Be Watching. Your employees should know that you reserve the right to monitor their email messages just as you would their company correspondence. You don’t want to spy on your employees but make sure they understand, completely, that the computer is company property and that if it becomes necessary, you will monitor their computer usage. This will eliminate any claims later on that the employee expected their online communication to be private and will help prove your case if or when you end up in court with an employee over an email issue.
4. Heads Up – We’re Making Space. Just like making space in your file cabinets is a fact of life, you will eventually have to delete emails to make space on your server. Make sure your employees know when you’ll be doing file maintenance and that some of their emails may be deleted. This will give them time to save the important ones to a place where they can be archived. Create good policies and procedures from the beginning for retaining important documents and destroying outdated information.
5. Take Steps to Protect Sensitive Company Information. If you or your employees use email communication for sensitive or confidential matters, make sure that you manage your inbox and sent emails by saving them to a proper folder. You might even consider using encryption software to make sure that not everyone can access them.
6. Email Is Not the Place For Disciplining Employees. Your supervisors and/ or managers should never use email to discuss personnel issues or discipline matters with employees. Email is no substitute for face-to-face communication or meetings with staff.
7. One More Reminder – Put It In Writing. The Internet is so prevalent now that it’s easy to take it for granted that your employees know what you expect of them and will apply common sense in their use of company computers and Internet access. Don’t make this mistake. Having a written policy, provided to all employees, will cut down on confusion and not only make your policies clear but will also send the signal that you’re serious about enforcing those policies.
Cyberspace has added many dimensions to our daily lives. Many companies are just now recognizing the need to control how company computers are used just as they would a company vehicle. Call us today to find out exactly what you need to do to make sure that your company computers are properly used without turning into the “thought police” and wasting time on unnecessary monitoring.
Call us today to schedule your comprehensive LIFT™ (legal, insurance, financial and tax) Foundation Audit and let’s talk about any potential personnel issues that arise from use of company computers and Internet access. As your personal legal advisors we will identify any liability issues you may be facing and what you need to do to fix them. Normally, this session is $1250, but if you mention this article and we still have room on our calendar this month, we will waive that fee.