Employees who misuse the Internet during work hours have become an increasing concern for many organizations. According to a survey conducted by salary.com, 64% of the survey participants said they visit non-work related websites every day during their working hours (salary.com, 2012). Misusing the Internet during working hours brings a host of ethical and productivity issues, and because of this, many organizations attempt to minimize unethical behavior that is a result of inappropriate use of the Internet in the workplace. The following blog post will discuss social media as one of the biggest areas of misuse of the web in the workplace and will provide a brief discussion what organizations can do to help this situation.
Many organizations have different ideas of what is considered inappropriate use of the Internet. Some of the major types of behaviors that organizations consider to be unethical and unacceptable Internet use include the following; (1) checking news headlines, (2) the use of personal email, (3) banking online, (4) playing games, and (5) checking the stock market to be some of the most common uses. However, many organizations require that employees use resources and websites on the Internet to help the organization market their products. Some organizations even encourage the use of social media to engage in networking, staying abreast of work-related topics, continuing education, and to participate in online conferences. Contrary to this, many organizations also discourage employees that engage in this type of behavior in fear of loss of production and security breaches. Whatever the case may be, organizations should ensure that proper policies are in place so that employees are less likely to inappropriately use the Internet.
Social media has become a major part of communication in business and many organizations have opted to set standards for policy making of the use of social media at work. Social media plays a critical part in the way organizations market their products, interact with customers outside of the organization, manage teams, and hire employees. Some organizations have gone as far as implementing a formal social media policy. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (2012), states that of the HR professionals that participated in the survey state that 40% state they have a formal social media policy in their organizations. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2012). These statistics show that there is a growing response to the need for such policies and organizations are recognizing the ethical and productivity implications that are involved in cyberloafing.
Creating policies and procedures for the proper use of Internet use is critical to employers that wish to enforce ethical behavior. In a recent article in Forbes, the author states that “establishing and enforcing policies should improve productivity but can also increase the security of company information, the security of company technical assets (computers), and will potentially reduce the liability associated with issues related to sexual harassment or employee job performance” (Forbes, 2012). However, in many cases, enforcing policies within organizations for Internet use can only stop some the unethical practices. Many employees bring their own devices such as iPhones, IPads, Nooks, and many other small portable devices to the workplace. Many organizations are encouraging this new FAD of bringing in your own device, which is known as BYOD (Henshell, 2013). This can pose many other ethical issues that organizations should consider when managing, implementing, and enforcing such policies. According to Henshell and author for the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy (2013), the BYOD initiative “is despised by IT departments because it presents security and support problems” (Henshell, 2013).
Organizations that encourage the use of these devices should implement standards to determine ethical considerations. First, they should define what is considered ethical. Is it considered unethical for employees to make a personal phone call from their person device while at work? Or is it unethical to check Facebook or Twitter updates from their own device during working hours? We know that visiting offensive sites are unacceptable, but where do we draw the line? Employers should divide these categories or levels of misuse and organize them in way that they can implement effective policies. Henshell (2013), suggests “inoffensive non-work-related usage of technology devices can be divided into two categories: personal business and play, also called ‘cyberloafing’” (Henshell, 2013). The main point here, is that it will vary based on the organization.
Forbes (2013). Employees Really Do Waste Time at Work. Retrieved: http://www.forbes.com/sites/cherylsnappconner/2012/07/17/employees-really-do-waste-time-at-work/
Henshell, J. (2013). Center for Digital Ethics & Policiy. Cyberloafing, BYOD, and the ethics of using technology devices at work. Retrieved: http://digitalethics.org/essays/cyberloafing-byod-ethics-technology-at-work/
Salary.com (2012). Wasting Time at Work 2012. Retrieved:
Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM Research Spotlight: Social Media in Business Strategy and Operations. Shedding Light on the Business of HR. 2012 Retrieved: http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Documents/Part_4_Social_Media_Flier.pdf