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Monitoring internet use and emails

October 14 2002 - A survey of organizational 'netiquette' from The Work Foundation (formerly The Industrial Society) reports that employees are increasingly likely to be fired because of 'kiss and tell' and other inappropriate emails.

The survey shows that employers worried about computer abuse are increasingly using so-called 'Big Brother' technology to monitor their employee's emails and use of the Internet - and are more likely to sack people who break the rules.

According to the survey:

* 75% of responding organisations either have or are working on netiquette policies

* 66% of those organisations monitored website access

* 65% monitored incoming email messages

* 43% monitored emails for inappropriate words or content

* 23% would dismiss an employee for breaching netiquette policies

The majority of organisations use policy documents or email messages to communicate Internet use and email policies to their employees but only 49% tell new staff during induction.

Most responding organisations inform employees that they are being monitored - but around 1 in ten do not. Smaller organisations are more likely to keep quiet about monitoring - 19% with fewer than a hundred staff do not give written notice of email monitoring and 17% do not give written notice when they monitor internet use.

According to The Work Foundation, policies that outline acceptable email and internet use at work are an important part of managing the various legal and resource issues around ICT. They also stress that companies should also be aware of their legal responsibilities towards their employees:

"Clarifying acceptable ICT use should be an integral part of netiquette policies," says Theo Blackwell of The Work Foundation. "Legally, users do need to be informed when content is monitored. This includes instances when software is used for filtering and blocking. However, organisations must reconcile this against the expectation of privacy and workplace trust and try to strike the right balance between rights and responsibilities.

"It is vital that acceptable email use should be understood by employees from day one. Many employees are unaware of the potential damage a rogue email can do to an organisation: like exposing the firm to defamation, bullying or harassment claims. Clearer understanding of what is allowed - and what isn't - is vital in today's workplace."

Other survey findings include:

- Netiquette policies are most likely to cover email (93%), web access (87%), disciplinary procedures for disregarding policies (78%) and virus eradication and virus liability (75%).

- Organisations most likely to have policies on netiquette are the utilities (71%) and financial sectors (69%). The least likely to have formal policies are IT firms.

- In 46% of companies with policies, the IT department was responsible for netiquette. In 18% it was HR's responsibility and in 21% it was the joint responsibility of different functions within the organisation.

- Monitoring is more likely to take place in larger companies. 62% of organisations with over 2,500 employees say they monitor emails for inappropriate content, and 52% monitor internal email messages.

The survey was based on a total of 262 questionnaires from HR and personnel specialists in March 2002. The report also contains best practice case studies.

- Managing Best Practice is The Work Foundation's monthly report on achieving excellence in key areas of managing people. Copies of Managing Best Practice no 95 Netiquette are available from The Work Foundation on 0870 165 6700, price 60 plus p&p. An annual subscription to the Managing Best Practice series costs 550 and covers 12 issues.

Also on this subject:

E-mail and Internet misuse

Dealing with inappropriate computer use<

E-mail Etiquette: Do's, Don'ts, and Disaster Tales from People Magazine's Internet Manners Expert
by Samantha Miller
  Everyone uses e-mail these days, but not everyone knows how to. E-MAIL ETIQUETTE will change all of that.This guide to polite and productive electronic mail use at home or in the office will be a must-read for everyone.
  More information and prices from: - US dollars - Canadian dollars - British pounds - Euros - Euros


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