It is common for employees today to spend a large portion of their day doing non-work related stuff on the web. They check their personal email and social networking accounts, set up instant messenger accounts for chatting with friends and associates and browse around the web reading the latest headlines or their favorite blogs. Although it?s expected that some time is going to be lost to these activities throughout the day, smart employers will work to minimize the amount of time that employees are wasting on personal Internet use. This should be done through setting up a system that deters such activity and yet doesn?t create resentment among employees.
Causing such resentment is the biggest danger that employers will run in to when trying to deter employees from using the Internet for personal use during working hours. No employee wants to be treated like a child who is told what to do and when to do it. The reality of the working environment is that the boss is doing exactly that; telling the employee what he or she is allowed to do. However, this can be done in such a way that the employee doesn?t feel disempowered. To do this, employers must take a no-nonsense approach to the issue and then hold employees accountable for their own actions in regards to it.
The first thing that an employer must do then is to determine what the rules are in the office regarding personal Internet use. This can vary widely from office to office depending on how you feel about it as an employer. You have to ask yourself if you think that all web surfing is bad or if there are activities, like Twittering, that you think are fine in moderation. By getting clear on the rules yourself, you make it easy for your employees to know what your expectations are. Once you?re clear, hold a staff meeting announcing the new rules and what your reasons are for these rules. Open the issue up for questions so that employees feel as though they?ve had a say in the situation.
You may want to set up a monitoring system or an Internet filtering system so that you can make sure that the rules are being followed. You should inform employees in advance that you are doing this. This gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for following the rules on their own; in most cases, employees will comply. It is important to use praise instead of punishment to encourage further compliance. Remember that the goal of this system is to increase productivity in the office. Reward employees who meet their goals. Speak privately with those individuals who are still wasting time on the Internet and work with them to deal with the problem. Set up a positive working environment in which employees feel that they are merely being asked to act like adults and you will find that most of them will step up to that challenge.
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