… well, nurses, anyway.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has warned employers that they should issue guidelines to their employees about the use of social networking sites at work. Cyber-bullying, stalking, inappropriate remarks about their employer and indavertent disclosure of personal information are all potential danger areas, to say nothing of the misuse of employers’ bandwidth by staff who are keen to inform their mates that their current status is “picking their nose in Accounts”.
Improper use of the Internet at work is a huge issue for employers. One tends to think of obvious problem areas, such as staff downloading porn or playing online games on their employers’ computers when they should be working, but recent research shows that millions of hours of productive time are wasted by employees visiting Facebook, Twitter or sites that cater for particular hobbies or leisure interests. A further complication is that employers often actively encourage their staff to be familiar with the Web, with all its myriad possibilities for new business development, viral marketing and the creation of business synergies. Internet usage software provides some assistance, giving an employer the opportunity to monitor the sites that employees are visiting and to flag up or block undesirable sites. Unfortunately, however, such software is less than 100% effective and often throws out the baby with the bathwater, in terms of denying employees access to sites that could benefit the business. Also: have you ever tried to monitor the online activities of thousands of people, simultaneously? Good luck with that…..
As with so much in life, there isn’t really an easy solution. I tend to the view that you should treat your employees as grown ups by explaining what you expect from them in terms of their Internet usage at work, and making it clear that abuse of the web – particularly in relation to harassment or cyber-stalking of other individuals, or visiting offensive or illegal websites – will be treated as a disciplinary matter in just the same way as they would be if carried out in the real world rather than the virtual one. For your own protection as an employer, you should also be clear about what you expect people to use the web for at work, so that you don’t get people claiming that they were looking at pictures of women (or men) with particular physical characteristics, in “the interests of conducting market research”.
It’s a banal cliché to say that the Internet has revolutionised almost every aspect of modern life but, like all clichés, it is rooted in the truth. It is an amazing business tool but, like all tools, it requires operator training, risk assessment and expert supervision, to avoid unfortunate occurrences.