Internet in the workplace has offered workers a platform for instantaneous access to information as well as a mode of communication. It is an important tool that improves the productivity of employees. Based on a study, employees spend about 1 to 3 hours daily surfing the internet at work (Healthfield, para 1). Employees activities on the internet include paying bills, tweeting on Twitter, visiting sports sites, watching YouTube channels, banking and shopping. When an employee spends his or her time on the internet, there is productivity loss at the time that would be used to work is spent on other activities. Employers are forced to monitor the employees to control the use of internet at work and make them use working hours productively. The paper will focus on the various ways employees use the internet at workplaces, the risks of internet usage, various ways manager can monitor internet usage and the effects of employee internet usage on the firm and workers.
Ways Employees Use the Internet
Based on an annual survey by salary.com, the use of the internet is the activity that most employees waste time on within a firm compared to having long breaks, conducting personal business, socializing with colleagues and personal phone calls. The internet is used in e-commerce activities, communication through emails and also a research tool in organizations. Some employees, however, use it for non-work related activities such as entertainment on social media platforms, shopping, and gambling. Some also engage in share trading during working hours. However, there are times when the use of the internet by employees at the workplaces is reliable and beneficial on their productivity levels as it boosts their morale. For instance, the workers can use the internet to pay an online bill or communicate with friends during lunch break. The young people are into social media and allowing them to use the internet during breaks is a motivating factor to better performance.
The employees use the internet due to large amounts of idle time. Lack of challenging work makes workers complete their roles quickly and use the other time on the internet. They also engage in the internet to take small breaks to rest (Weatherbee, p. 37). Continuous working makes a worker tired hence the internet is relied upon as a tool for refreshing ones mind before undertaking the next activity. Boredom at work, as well as low job satisfaction, are other factors that lead to the use of internet at workplaces.
Risks of Internet Usage
The use of internet has various consequences and implications for a firm. Workers can place a firm in jeopardy which may result in the manager taking legal responsibility for the employees misconduct. There can be copyright infringement when an employee uses internet in the workplace. Copyright infringement involves a person using someone elses data as theirs without the persons approval. The speeds and nature of the internet encourage a user to copy and pass data and information. An employee can forward someone elses information to others through the companys computers and internet services without the persons consent.
Discrimination or sexual harassment is another issue likely to occur when employees use the internet in the workplace. When communicating using the firms computers, some employees may send ill jokes to their friends, and some turn out to be complaints that are reported to the police for further investigations. The evidence can be found in the computers of the firm and make the firm have a bad image especially if the information sent through its servers is a form of discrimination or harassment to the recipient. Defamation of the firm is also likely to occur when an employee uses the firms email to send intimidating information to clients or competitors. The employee could also send the information to an online platform such as social media thus risking the public image of the organization.
Some employees can be hired by competitors to acquire some information from the firm. Due to the attractive payment terms, the workers disclose the firms secrets through the internet and emails. It risks the firms performance in the market as competitors may implement its strategies before it introduces them hence leading to its downfall.
A firm needs to use legal software, content or programs in its computers. Some of the employees use the firms internet to download pirated data which can lead to payment of fines as the act is illegal (Vitak, Julia, and Robert, 1753). Therefore employees can make a firm lose finances though fines for using illegal and pirated content. Additionally, illegal actions such as hacking and fraud can be done using the firms internet by malicious employees. Illegal acts linked to a firm affects its brand image as well as makes it open for lawsuits.
When workers browse unauthorized websites using the firms computers, they expose them to malicious software, malware. Malware can affect a network infrastructure of a firm and interrupt the activities of the firm. Malware can also be derived from spam emails that are opened by the employees unknowingly. Phishing also occurs when hackers use some of the sites the employees access to steal the firms data by acquiring access to the firms servers. Phishing leads to financial loss, access to passwords and usernames of a firm and identity theft.
Monitoring Internet Usage
Managers require to monitor the activities of the employees to ensure there is minimal internet usage and it does not pose any threat to the firm. When a worker uses the internet, the records are stored in the browser history. A manager needs to frequently check the browser history of the computers in the firm to identify files, cookies and monitor the rate at which the employees use the internet on a daily basis. It is also important in enabling the manager to identify the sites that are most accessed by the workers. Managers also need to check the network traffic to identify the exact websites visited by the workers and when they visited them. They can monitor the traffic through a firewall. However, the employees can delete the information which makes it hard for the manager to access the information.
Managers require developing solid internet usage policies. Employees need to have clear guidelines on when employees should access the internet as well as what the firm has prohibited and the expected behavior of the workers when handling the internet at the workplace (Akman and Alok, p. 487). Effective communication of the policies ensures that employees use the internet at the appropriate time and as a tool to improve the productivity of the company. Employees also need to know that they are being monitored. People become more cautious on their activities when they realize that they are at risk of warnings or job loss if they behave against the organizations policies. The aspect of informing the employees about being monitored also creates a good work culture and minimizes instances of the workers breaching the policies on internet usage.
The use of internet and social media at the workplace needs to be banned by some managers. Despite being a way of killing boredom or monotony of work, the internet is addictive and makes most of the employees work slowly hence derail productivity in the firm (Lim and Don, p. 344). Banning of the internet will ensure that the workers have no disruptions as they work. It also enables them to work accurately unlike when one works while still accessing the internet. The firms computers need to be limited to formal activities. The management also needs to block the use of internet on social media platforms within the firms vicinity as a form of banning access to social media platforms during work.
It is important for managers to identify and block undesirable websites accessed by the employees. It involves filtering the web access by blocking the URLs of the undesirable sites. The manager can identify risky sites that can bring malware to the firms computer as well as sites that can enable the workers to download pirated content that can make the firm face charges and have a bad brand image. Keywords of unwanted sites can also be filtered to limit the ability of employees accessing them.
Emails are critical channels of communication that employees could use to share private information of the firm. A manager should monitor the outgoing and incoming emails through programs such as Spector CNE. The program notifies a manager when particular phrases or words are used in an email by capturing and reviewing the received and sent emails. Keyloggers are also important to managers as they record all data that is typed on a computers keyboard. A manager can use the information to identify any sites that may have been deleted from the browser history that the employees access.
Employees are motivated using rewards for high productivity. Employees who do not access the internet at the workplaces have better productivity rates than those who do hence have the privilege of receiving promotions, salary increase, and recognition (Akman and Alok, p. 485). A manager needs to motivate the hardworking employees and those who are rarely on their phones or computers using the internet to challenge the others and highlight to them the importance of using working hours productively.
The use of internet at the workplaces by the employees is one of the acts that lead to time wastage and low productivity in a firm. Employees engage in internet usage to shop online, communicate with family and friends in social media platforms and to watch entertaining content in platforms such as YouTube. The use of internet at the workplace exposes a firm to phishing, malware attacks, loss of data to competitors, copyright infringement, and possession of pirated content. Managers have the responsibility of ensuring that employees use the internet wisely. They need to develop clear internet usage policies in the firm, limit various URLs and keywords and monitor all received and sent emails to ensure their content is within the expectations of the firm. Additionally, the manager requires rewarding, productive employees who rarely rely on the internet at the workplace and banning the use of internet at work. The issue of internet use is set to increase as the young people are internet-oriented and will take up most of the employment opportunities in the coming years. Managers can allow the use of internet at limited times such as breaks as a means of improving morale. However, employees who use the internet during work require to face punishments as they lower the organizations productivity.
Akman, Ibrahim, and Alok Mishra. "Gender, age and income differences in internet usage among employees in organizations." Computers in Human Behavior 26.3 (2010): 482-490.
Heathfield, Susan. "What Employers Are Doing About Employees Surfing The Web At Work." The Balance, 2016, https://www.thebalance.com/surfing-the-web-at-work-1919261.
Lim, Vivien KG, and Don JQ Chen. "Cyberloafing at the workplace: gain or drain on work?." Behaviour & Information Technology 31.4 (2012): 343-353.
Vitak, Jessica, Julia Crouse, and Robert LaRose. "Personal Internet use at work: Understanding cyberslacking." Computers in Human Behavior 27.5 (2011): 1751-1759.
Weatherbee, Terrance G. "Counterproductive use of technology at work: Information & communications technologies and cyberdeviancy." Human Resource Management Review 20.1 (2010): 35-44.
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