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Should you be Monitoring Employee Internet Usage?

In a digital age where we are all glued to the internet, whether that’s for our work life or personal life, the lines are blurring when it comes to tech and what is and isn’t allowed during our 9 to 5.

Whilst the internet is a necessity for many of us in order to get the job done, how many of us have snuck in the odd look at Facebook or a BuzzFeed article? Leaving us distracted and unable to dive back into the project we were working on.

In fact a recent survey found that a third of employees are distracted at work for up to three hours a day, totaling a grand sum of 758 hours per year – a hefty sum that all leads to productivity levels dropping. Social media, personal emails, online shopping, internet browsing, and mobile phones were all cited as tech distractions at work.

So, would monitoring employees be a help to your business? Or would it create a Big Brother state where employees feel untrusted in their place of work? The debate is one which will always wage on but there are certainly benefits to both employees and employers when it comes to keeping an eye on just what the internet is being used for.

I run a business, will it help?

Introducing a policy on the internet is nothing new in the world of work and something which businesses have implemented since the internet’s initial conception, but with tech advancing daily, new websites to be browsed and different ways to access it, monitoring the vast digital world can seem like an overwhelming task.

Defining what your goals are for monitoring internet use should be your first step. Are you implementing a policy because you’ve had previous issues? Are you concerned productivity levels are slipping? Or are you worried important data could be put at risk? Whatever your reasoning monitoring usage extends beyond your initial focus.

Whilst your main goal may be that you want to keep employees focused on the task at hand and in turn ensure productivity levels remain high, you could also be helping to safeguard your data too. With website hackers targeting businesses and taking files, often held at ransom for a large sum of money, protecting your business wherever possible is essential. Whilst it’s unlikely that a quick mooch on Twitter will do this, employees may unknowingly access a website which could do more harm than good.

Of course, you should also be taking steps to educate staff on how to use internet safely, but it’s important not to undermine them here either. Treat them like they know nothing and you’ll see your company culture take a nose dive.

Take our advice and don’t patronise, state the importance of them safeguarding their information too and keep things on level ground. Explain your reasoning and the benefits to them and the business, and employees are likely to feel that you are checking up on them much less.

What does it mean for employees?

It would be easy to think that the benefits are weighted more heavily to employers when it comes to content filtering, but the latest advancements in monitoring software mean that it has far more value than simply blocking a site.

Do you really believe that employees actually want distractions at work? For the vast majority the answer is likely to be a resounding no, and anything that actually helps to block out the distractions around can help to keep deadline adhered to and concentration levels up.

Some monitoring software can even show how long has been spent on certain websites or tasks, and before anyone recoils in worry over learning a few home truths it’s important to remember this can be beneficial to hear. Helping you to assess how much time you are potentially losing, or how long a task has taken can all help to streamline how you work and make you more productive. And if there’s anything that feels good at work it’s getting a job done right, on time and quickly too.

How does content filtering work?

With many different content filtering products on the market it’s always best to do your research beforehand to identify what type of software is right for you and your business. Remember to take into account the size of your business too – if you expand will the software cover the number of employees you have?

A blacklist works by excluding certain sites, in categories which have been deemed ‘bad’. It doesn’t necessarily mean websites will do damage to your computer, but that they may harm how you work and provide a distraction. A blacklist can be set up through a content filter or manually, allowing you to add sites you feel need to be included and removing them from the list if you see fit too.

If you aren’t sure of specific site names then you can block sites by tagging certain keywords, which will then flag the site up as ‘bad’. Content filtering software can also monitor emails, instant messages, control software installations and monitor the firewall.

Implementing an Internet Policy

When it comes implementing an internet monitoring policy it’s important to remember that it will likely be a sensitive subject. Take care when approaching the subject with employees and detail it all in writing to keep things official.

Set a written policy and lay out what you do and don’t expect when it comes to the internet in the workplace. Define the security risks that could affect not only the company but employees too. A good policy should tell employees how they will be monitored and the steps that may be taken if they are found abusing the policy.

Whether your business already has a policy in place or you’re looking to implement one, keeping your business up to date when it comes to internet monitoring won’t only help to keep your business age but could also boost productivity too.