Download two types of Internet usage policies

Review and revise your Internet policy to save your network from employees who abuse Internet and e-mail privileges while on the job.
Written by Dana Norton, Contributor
Workers who abuse Internet and e-mail privileges while on the job are putting your network in jeopardy. They are exposing your organization to e-mail viruses, hogging bandwidth by downloading MP3 files, and wasting hours of company time surfing sites unrelated to the job at hand.

An Internet and e-mail use policy outlining how workers can use organizational resources can help rein in your users. If you have a policy but are still cleaning up the mess computer bugs leave behind, it’s probably time to review and revise it.

TechRepublic can help. We created a download with two examples of typical Internet use policies, a moderate policy and one that is more detailed. You can modify the examples to fit your own organization’s needs. Download the examples to set up or modify your own policy. The download also includes additional information on why an Internet usage policy is necessary.

The simple usage policy
Many organizations use “one-liner” policies. Leaving online browsing and e-mail behavior to users’ discretion, these policies sum up what users can and cannot do with company Internet resources in one or two sentences. Consider if these examples would work in your organization:

  • “Accessing, downloading, uploading, saving, or sending sexually explicit or other offensive materials, using vulgar, sexist, racist, threatening, or demeaning language is not allowed.”
  • “Our organization is not responsible for material viewed or downloaded by users from the Internet. Users accessing the Internet do so at their own risk.”
  • “The e-mail system is primarily for business use. Occasional and reasonable personal use is permitted, provided that this does not interfere with the performance of your duties.”

These may work for smaller organizations, but medium- or large-size ones might consider policies with more detail.

The more detailed policy
While using a detailed policy is a good idea, a severe lock down on Internet and e-mail use may not be the right approach.

“An Internet usage policy has to be viewed like any distractions from work, whether it be personal telephone use or spending too much time near the coffee machine chit-chatting about yesterday’s football scores,” said Erran Carmel, associate professor of management of global information technology at American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C.

“It should be looked at in the context of those kind of nonwork activities,” he said.

The organization’s culture may hold the answers. “First of all, the organization has to look at their culture and ask what norms and what specific written policies do we have about nonwork activities during work hours. Internet usage must be looked at in that context,” said Carmel.

If you are looking for a way to keep users off the Internet, you are headed for problems. Many users need Internet resources to send and receive messages to clients and trading partners or to gather research pertinent to their job. So the next best step is to regulate personal Internet and e-mail use.

“A lot of what knowledge workers do has to do with the Internet these days. They might need to look at something quickly on the Web that’s purely legitimate. You can’t protect yourself from employees going on to the Internet because everything is so intertwined,” said Carmel.

Managing Internet and e-mail use is a tough job, and it’s hard to know where to start. “It has to be looked at in a more holistic way. If people are spending that time (online), that means that they’re not being supervised; they’re not being challenged.”

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