technology abuse at work

Stopping Technology Abuse at Work


For most companies, the use of technology is critical to the success of their business. With all the resources and efficiencies that technology can bring, it also can be one of the biggest time wasters through non-work-related use by employees. Productivity issues are nothing new. There have been employees who waste time long before computers were introduced to the workplace. Addressing this problem is not just a technology issue; it is also a management issue. Not only does it impede productivity, but it also puts your organization at risk for cyber security hacks. 64% of companies have experienced web-based attacks. 62% experienced phishing & social engineering attacks. 59% of companies experienced malicious code and botnets and 51% experienced denial of service attacks. small organizations (those with fewer than 500 employees) spend an average of $7.68 million per incident.

Not only are there concerns for productivity, but also addiction is related to things like pornography, gambling, social networks, and video gaming activities. It has been argued behavioral addictions are no different from chemical addictions (e.g., alcoholism, heroin, or tobacco addiction) regarding the core components of addiction such as salience, tolerance, withdrawal, mood modification, conflict, time waste, and relapse. Most excessive users spend vast amounts of time online for social contact (mostly for chat room services). Young (1999) claimed internet addiction was a broad term that covered a wide variety of behaviors and impulse control problems that have been classified by five specific subtypes (i.e., cyber sexual addiction, cyber-relationship addiction, net compulsions, information overload, and computer addiction).

Fixing the Technology Abuse Problem

Finding ways to eliminate technology misuse while still allowing the positive benefits to remain in the work environment is possible.

  • Use web filtering software to block access to undesirable websites.

Create an Internet Use Policy

Finding ways to eliminate internet misuse and addictive behaviors while still allowing the positive benefits to remain in the work environment is possible.

This should include the following information:

  • Computer, internet, and email are all company property, and the company reserves the right to monitor use and access
  • Definition of misuse items that would result in corrective action (e.g., gambling, pornography, and other non-job-related uses).
  • A statement that the use of the internet and email are for business purposes.
  • A provision prohibiting electronic communications that are contrary to the company’s harassment and discrimination policies.
  • Limit the use of personal devices such as tablets, smartphones or other technology access for personal use only during designated breaks or other non-working times.
  • Train employees on the policy, defining expectations, proper use, and abuse that will result in corrective actions.
  • Ask employees to be vigilant in using their work time, Internet, and computer resources wisely.
  • Remind employees frequently of your Internet Fair Use Policy.
  • Make it fun by giving employees a random quiz regarding your written policy.

Supervisor Reinforcement

Supervisors must ensure adherence to all company policies and procedures, including the Internet, computer, and email policy. Train leaders to remain aware of employees’ computer activities and other indicators that show there may be a problem. For example, decreased productivity, missing deadlines, spending excessive amounts of time on the Internet, and shifting to another site when someone walks by can indicate there is a potential problem. Raise awareness, set expectations, monitor, give feedback and reinforce the need to use the Internet appropriately.

Internet Filter

Consider whether you need to utilize Internet filters that block or restrict access to undesired websites. In addition to restricting sites like pornography and gambling, some organizations even restrict social sites such as YouTube and Facebook. Balance restrictions by not being too mistrusting. Allow those who do not abuse the system to do some personal things on the Internet during breaks and lunch.

Monitor Internet Use

YouTube and other streaming sites are network/bandwidth hogs. This can cause network crashes and potential security leaks if left unmonitored. Look for a network analyzer program to implement into your cybersecurity program. Below is a list of free and paid sites you can reference:

5. FREE Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor
6. FREE Network Analyzer & Bandwidth Monitoring Bundle
7. ntopng
8. Cacti
9. BandwidthD

In addition to informing employees that your organization may monitor Internet use, monitor access to restricted sites, especially for those who have shown a problem in this area. If you suspect an employee may have a problem with Internet abuse, look at the history of the employee’s Internet surfing. 

Corrective Action

Employees who violate your Internet fair use agreement, computer, and email policy should be held accountable. The level of the violation drives the corrective action response. For lesser violations, you may give them support and coaching to help them improve. For more serious violations and repeat offenders, written warnings and ultimately discharge may be the best recourse. Keep in mind that other employees know when abuse is taking place. If they see someone getting away with wasting time and misusing the Internet, it causes resentment, and negativity, and may lead to them adopting poor Internet habits as well. Be consistent and take needed actions to enforce your policy.

Technology abuse can be a hidden activity that requires clear policies, training, monitoring, leader reinforcement, and corrective action to keep the Internet a productive tool — not a time waster.

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