What Are Your Employees REALLY Doing at Work?
Every small business owner knows the value of the Internet – and therefore, an IT department - to their daily operations. These days, most businesses not only use the Internet for research, advertising, and communication, but also have online businesses that require specialized attention. If you have an online store, skilled IT staff are imperative to prevent random crashes and maintain an ideal online shopping experience. In addition to website connectivity, an IT effective department maintains workplace technology, such as employees’ computers and accounts; knowledgeable professionals are crucial for a streamlined, efficient technological working environment.
However, most employers struggle to ensure staff members are working productively behind their computer screen. It is difficult to know exactly what your IT employees are doing while they’re at work, given all the distractions that the Internet offers. In theory, employees are paid to maximize their time in the workplace in order to carry out work-related tasks. In reality this rarely happens, as most employees habitually take time for personal tasks during work hours. This does not occur out of maliciousness, but simply out of unprofessionalism, impulsivity, and ignorance to the amount of time they spend distracted.
Why business professionals end up hiring unprofessional employees
To start, many business owners inadvertently hire unprofessional employees (especially when it comes to an IT group), as they do not know what to look for during the hiring process. For example, when reviewing resumes applicants will likely have similar education and experience; it is difficult to identify levels of professionalism exclusively through entries on a resume. How can you tell if they were dedicated to their job in these positions when a resume is designed to put your best foot forward? Working in IT can be monotonous, but no one will admit in an interview that they are easily bored or distracted; people are rehearsed and will act enthusiastic, attempting to demonstrate that they will go above and beyond.
So what’s the solution? The most cost-effective option is to outsource your IT work to an outside company. This option is most beneficial for multiple reasons; it not only saves you time and money hiring and training your own IT team, but it guarantees the people managing the IT side of your business are dedicated to their work. Employees from an independent, third party IT team have passed a screening process led by other IT professionals, who know what questions to ask. Who better to separate the truly valuable IT prospects from those who may not be fully committed, than a group of IT professionals?
Why some others may not know about appropriate Internet use policies
Although some employees may knowingly engage in personal tasks on company time, some may be truly ignorant to what constitutes acceptable Internet use in the workplace. Employers are partially at fault, as they may not properly educate staff on appropriate versus inappropriate Internet use at work. For example, some employees may honestly believe if they are finished with required tasks, they have a free pass to browse Facebook or shop online. Employers need to explicitly teach their employees that mandatory work is the minimum requirement; once they finish their task list, they should take the initiative to engage in other work-related tasks to contribute to continued growth and progress of the company.
Unfortunately, most inappropriate Internet use is a result of the many distractions available on the Internet and difficulties controlling the impulsive need to engage in those distractions. It is possible to teach employees to redirect themselves when they feel the need to engage in personal tasks on company time. For example, employers can teach their staff to take a few minutes to meditate and refocus themselves, rather than play online games, so that they can make work a distraction-free zone. Employers ought to develop alternative break behaviors among their employees, rather than assume they will engage in these appropriate break tasks themselves.
It is expected that employees will eventually forget what they learned during training. Therefore, it is important to go over the rules of the workplace periodically, taking the time to reiterate what your acceptable Internet use policy encompasses. For example, an acceptable Internet use policy explains that company computers are for work use only during work hours; all activities done on the computer must be carried out as part of the employee’s role in the company. Furthermore, data transmitted and stored on company computers belongs to the company, and as a result, is subject to disclosure for legal reasons if necessary. It’s also important for employees to know how to conduct themselves when using a company email, such as avoiding offensive or unprofessional language.
Employees should be informed that although you may not monitor every site they visit, specific sites will be flagged and you will be alerted if employees visit those sites. For example, you can set up this type of system for Facebook so you can monitor when employees are spending time on social networks instead of working. You can also prevent the installation of software used for personal messaging and other types of personal software, such as gaming.
Some activities should simply be banned at work, such as, sending or posting messages or images deemed discriminatory, harassing, or threatening. Company computers cannot be used for any sort of fraud, including software, film or music piracy; this encompasses downloading or copying files that are copyrighted and employees do not have the authorization to use. Using or disclosing someone else's password without permission is also strictly prohibited, as is hacking into websites or sharing company secrets with others.
Sometimes employees are unaware as to why these rules are important, especially those that forbid them from downloading files onto company computers that are not strictly related to work. Employees may not know that downloading files or programs off the internet, especially from untrustworthy sources, can introduce malicious software onto the company network, jeopardizing the security of the organization's electronic communications systems.
How to REALLY know what your employees are doing at work
As a small or medium business owner, you may feel you have no control over what your employees do on the Internet at work, and that you should just give up and take the loss. However, this is simply not true because giving up would be way more costly; not only are you losing money because of decreased productivity, but you are overpaying employees that are distracted at work and not following acceptable Internet use policy. Instead, there are ways to ensure the people that work for you are being accountable to their job and truly earning their pay.
An obvious, but difficult and unethical, solution would be to monitor employee search history or install cameras on computers to monitor activity. However, this is strongly discouraged, as it would create a “police state” mindset at the workplace where people feel threatened and devalued. Instead, you want to foster an environment where your employees respect you, are satisfied with their job tasks, and are inspired by the mission of the company; these employees will take the initiative to dedicate themselves to their work. Ultimately, this is an environment with dedicated IT professionals responsible for Internet and computer issues, while other employees simply worry about the job that they are assigned to do. As mentioned above, outsourcing your IT work to an outside company is the most efficient way to achieve this environment, in addition to education on appropriate Internet use.
What are the benefits of taking these steps?
Ultimately, you will build a company with employees who work efficiently and productively. Your employees will feel a deeper sense of connection to your company mission and values through a sense of accomplishment, rather than wasting time on the Internet. Furthermore, by engaging employees in a dialogue around responsible Internet use policies and the reasoning behind the policy, you will gain respect through transparency.