While at work you might need to use the Internet for online banking, to send a personal email to arrange dinner plans or find someone through a social networking site. Depending on the policies of the company, your employer could consider any personal use excessive if it is not for business purposes. The problem with the term "excessive" is that it has various interpretations. What you might consider limited use during your lunch hour, your employer might consider "excessive."
What is Excessive?
According to Fasken Martineau, an international business law firm, excessive personal use of the Internet is similar to an employee claiming to be at work when she's not. Because of work hours lost, your employer could consider your Internet usage excessive and categorize it as "time theft." To play it safe, check your company's Internet usage policy on personal emails and browsing the Internet for non work-related tasks. This way, you can be sure that you aren't using the Internet excessively.
Your employer knows that using the Internet's resources is useful but it can also be a time waster. The company develops an Internet usage policy to be sure that employees are productive with access to the Internet. Under the policy, to prevent excessive use, a company might allow you to have access to your personal email accounts and social networking sites only during the lunch hour or breaks, for example. The policy might not allow downloading software onto a work computer or visiting sexually explicit or other sites. A policy enforces that Internet access is a privilege and not a right.
Your employer might be monitoring your Internet usage at work. According to the American Management Association (AMA), more than half of U.S. companies engage in some form of email and Internet usage monitoring. Your employer might believe that monitoring employees' Internet usage ensures that employees don't drain the company's limited server and hard drive storage space because of excessive personal use. Or, your employer might be concerned about the potential loss of employee productivity from excessive Internet usage. The good news is that you are likely to be spot-checked rather than monitored on a continual basis. Either way, big brother is watching you.
If your employer informs you that the company has implemented an Internet monitoring program, you might as well forget about your privacy on the Internet at work. Under the program, you might be allowed limited, reasonable personal use of the Internet. If the terms of the program are vague, in your employer's opinion, he might consider your personal use of the Internet excessive and discipline or terminate you depending on the terms of the program policy.
- IABC: Legal Issues Involved in Monitoring Employees' Internet and E-mail Usage
- Fasken Martineau: The HR Space: Is Excessive Internet Use Time Theft?
- GFI: Internet Usage Policy Implementation in the Workplace
- Ward and Smith P.A.: Employers Who Monitor Employee Internet and Email Usage Should Monitor Their Policies As Well