Why You Need Company Policies for Internet, Email, and Social Media Use
Modern technologies can be a great asset to almost any business. The Internet facilitates effective research and information management, email enables quick internal and external communications, and social media can act as a great tool for engaging current and potential customers. However, the risks that these technologies can pose to a business have led many businesses to impose blanket restrictions on the use of the Internet, email, and social media. While protecting companies, these policies invariably influence employee performance when effective company policies could help unlock the productive potential of technology.
But what are the specific risks that technologies present, and how can company policies mitigate these risks? One of the most well-known vulnerabilities in using the Internet and email is that it is very easy to accidentally download a virus or other malicious software that could compromise computers on the network. This is often done by absentmindedly clicking a link in an email that takes the user to a malicious website, and a company policy could easily help deflect this threat. By informing employees of potential threats and putting limits on the types of websites they can visit, employers can set strict limits that minimize exposure.
Social media presents a number of complex and lesser-known problems that companies sometimes have a hard time dealing with. One of those problems is the way in which a company’s social media accounts can be hacked, allowing a malicious attacker to tarnish the company’s reputation or spread misleading information. To combat this, companies must place great emphasis on password security and educate employees on what makes a password effective. Company policy should also make it clear that users must log into these accounts every time they use them, rather than allowing sites to “remember” passwords and log in automatically. This reduces the risk of unauthorized people accessing company accounts.
Sometimes, however, security breaches are not the result of malicious intent. Employees could inadvertently reveal confidential business information via social media simply because they did not know what constituted “confidential” information. While it is nearly impossible to avoid occasional mistakes, a clear policy outlining the appropriate use of social media and the type of information that should not be disclosed will help protect valuable information.
Lastly, one of the biggest threats posed by technology is employee productivity. Hundreds of hours are lost each year as employees check their Facebook accounts, send non-work related emails, and procrastinate online. A solution to this problem is simply to block access to any website that is not specifically necessary for the job and to apply strict penalties for inappropriate use of email. However, this could have a detrimental impact on employee morale, so it may be worth considering looser terms in your company policy that avoid strict restrictions on use and clarify company tolerance limits.
Aside from the specific problems that company policies solve, they are also important for more general reasons. Having strong policies that employees must adhere to creates a ‘safety culture’ that increases awareness and caution. In addition, a clear company policy is essential if companies want to protect themselves from potential legal problems that arise from the actions of individual employees. The benefits of company policies that address the use of the Internet, email, and social media are multifaceted and will help companies realize the full potential of digital technologies.