In a perfect world, employees would arrive at work planning to work. They would support your business in all of its decisions. They might even work overtime simply to make sure that the job is done right. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and one of the many things that worry small business owners is employees spending business time on non-work-related Web surfing. According to a survey conducted by Vault.com, approximately 22% of workers spend 30 minutes to an hour visiting non-work-related sites and nearly 25% surf more than one hour on an average workday. Because many people’s jobs involve the Internet, it is very difficult to determine who is using the office computer for personal matters and who is really working online.
Monitoring Approach #1: Look for One Bad Apple
If you find yourself routinely making more rules to control Internet use, this might be a signal that it is time to remove an employee. If you feel that you need strict Internet usage rules, first check to make sure that it is for all of your employees. If it is just one employee who is abusing the Internet, consider dealing with the one employee, and not making a monitoring policy that affects everyone. You should consider using Internet monitoring software (such as SpectorPro or Guardian Monitor Professional) when you have a suspicion or concern that you cannot solve in any other way, or to ferret out serious problems, such as catching your “one bad apple” in the act.
Monitoring Approach #2: Monitor Everyone
It is not necessarily expensive to purchase spyware and install it. The average cost for such a program is about $30 per computer. It might take the supervisor as little as a half hour each day to check the logs created by the software. Merely knowing that the supervisor is watching could cut down on employee misuse.
On the other hand, installing spyware may cause a more active productivity problem to surface. Installing spyware is likely to excite and challenge the would-be hackers in your company. In this situation, the employees see themselves as the “good guys,” fighting unjust intrusion on their privacy. Even employees who are not doing any improper Internet surfing are likely to spend work time trying to circumvent controls imposed by “Big Brother.”
Monitoring Approach #3: Casual Monitoring
If you pay attention to your people, you don’t really need fancy monitoring software. The best and least expensive way to manage people is the concept of “management by walking around.” Simply set up a routine of walking around the office a few times each day. While you do this, you look at your employees and glance at what they are doing. You can quickly get a feel for who is working and who is surfing.
Monitoring Approach #4: Involve Your Staff
If you can accept human behavior and “roll with it,” you will be able to accept that, as long as the office has supplies and services that are appealing to employees, employees will want to have personal use of them. The best approach to the problem is to sit down with your employees and openly discuss the issue. Then, together, you and they should make up an Internet use policy. If your employees have a hand in developing the policy, they will feel ownership of it and will be more likely to follow it than rebel against it. The key points in your policy should be:
- A clear understanding that, while some personal use is allowed, the goal is to work during work time
- A definition of what is acceptable personal use and what is not acceptable (e.g., viewing pornography is an easy no-no)
- A definition of how much work time can be used for personal Internet surfing. Perhaps this will involve a number of minutes per day and a time of day, such as before or after work, or during lunch
No matter what Internet monitoring solution you decide to use, you will have better results if you involve your employees.