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How Much Internet Access Should Your Employees Have?

October 19th, 2010 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

As a small business owner, you’re probably struggling with the following dilemma in your workplace: Your employees expect to be able to surf the Net, update their Facebook status and shop online during the workday. For many of your employees, some of those things might even be part of their jobs. But when employees spend too much time on personal business online, it can put your business at risk. How—and where—do you draw the line?

Here’s a closer look at the issues you may be concerned about and how to deal with each one.

Time-wasting: A little bit of online goof-off time is to be expected these days and, if it’s used as a quick work break, has been shown to actually boost productivity. But if employees are spending too much time Facebooking, watching cat videos on YouTube or checking sports scores, you might need to step in. Start by having a conversation with the person in question. Usually, just being alerted that you’re aware of the person’s habits can snap them into shape. If the problem is widespread, let employees know that you expect them to use good judgment in using their time, but that excessive use of the Internet for personal reasons can lead to discipline. Nobody wants to be the one person who ruins it for the whole group.

Viruses or security issues: It’s easy to accidentally download malware or click on a link that gives your computer a virus. Work with your IT department or consultant to create a policy that makes sense for your business. Specify what types of e-mails, links or attachments your employees should or shouldn’t open; what types of sites they should not visit, if any; what types of warning signs or messages to watch out for; and what to do if they think they have a virus. It’s important to catch problems before they spread to your entire staff or network.

Image control: Employees need to be aware that websites typically capture their visitors’ addresses. That means if your employees are visiting questionable sites, it could reflect poorly on your business. Let employees know that anything they do online can reflect on your company—whether that’s commenting in a blog, posting incriminating photos or spreading confidential information about your company’s plans.

Get tough: If you need to, you can install software that monitors, logs and records every keystroke employees make on their computers. This enables you to track their emails and the websites they visit. Often, just letting your staff know that you have this technology in place is enough to keep them on the straight and narrow without your ever having to actually use it.

As with every employee-related issue, the best policy is being clear and straightforward. Let your staff know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

The views expressed here are the author's alone and not those of Network Solutions or its partners.

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