5 Tips for Using the Internet at Work

By Sarah Winfrey on 14 December 2010 (Updated 9 December 2011) 1 comment
Photo: cell105

Most employees get on the Internet for personal reasons while they’re at work. It makes sense — when you’re online all day anyway, you may as well check your personal email, Twitter, or even Facebook.

Many employers don’t mind if their employees spend some personal time online, as long as it doesn’t interfere with customer service or hamper productivity. In order to keep it that way, though, there are some tips you should keep in mind. They are, for the most part, common sense, but you might be surprised how many employees break them. (See also: 5 Ways Being Nice at Work Can Payoff)

1. Know Your Company’s Policy

More and more companies have written policies covering what their employees can and cannot do online from the office. Ask about this or look it up before you have the chance to get in trouble, as it will look especially bad to be found breaking it if you’re new to the job. While you may feel awkward asking about checking personal email at your orientation, doing so will help you get started on the right foot.

2. Avoid Blocked Websites

Some companies have started blocking social networking sites or video sites, like YouTube, so that computers on their premises cannot access them. Usually the programs that block these sites also record which computers are trying to access them. If you make repeated attempts, or more attempts than most people do, you may find yourself having an awkward meeting with HR.

3. Watch What You Say

When you’re at work, you represent your company, even if you’re sending a personal email. That may not seem straightforward to you, but it will certainly seem that way for your company. Thus it’s important to watch your words, especially if there’s the chance that a keylogger is installed on your computer.

Refrain from swearing, tirades, rants, and other overly emotional communication at work. Even if you’re not talking about your company directly, these sorts of communications may garner you more attention than you’re looking for.

4. Don’t Knock Your Company

This one may seem particularly obvious, but people still get fired regularly for the things they say about their company online. If you have something negative to say about your job, your corporation, your boss, your coworkers, or anything possibly pertaining to work, just don’t say it online. Don’t Tweet it, don’t post it to Facebook, don’t blog about it, and don’t email anyone about it.

If you’re angry about a specific situation and you need to talk, take a break (even if you have to take personal or vacation time to do it) and call someone close to you. Go outside, have your rant, and be done with it. If you need to tell someone at work what’s going on, do it in person, not via the web.

5. Don’t Give Away Company Secrets

Again, this one should be obvious. But people email their work passwords to a personal account all the time. Even if you have a perfectly legitimate reason for doing this, at least clear it with your supervisor first. That way, if the company has certain keystrokes flagged and you trigger an alarm, you have support when defending yourself against the charges.

Emails about trading information, new designs, product revisions, personnel reviews, and more should all be sent encrypted if they’re leaving your company. Some may disagree with this, but you want to cover yourself in case something gets leaked.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t pass secure information via the Internet for illegal purposes, either. Your job and your reputation are more important than any data you might obtain.

It’s easy to be a responsible employee and still keep up with your personal life online while at work. Just make sure you’re not being a moron, and do what you know is right.

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Susan

I think the best thing to do is to avoid using work computers for personal use altogether. It is not private and it is also very distracting. Another thing, is that people should not get involved in reading and sending "chain e-mail".