Bring Your Own Device to Play-Work
May 6, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

How nice is too nice of an electronic use policy?

Our COO is open to my suggestion that we update our company's electronic use policy to allow "reasonable use" of electronic media (such as periodic checking of email), which makes sense because any associate's phone logged on to our wifi network is immediately utilizing it to keep up with any personal email or social media notifications by default.

As I reward, I get to draft the new policy! (*groan* -- isn't that always the reward for initiative in the business world?) I don't know Rule One about policy language, but I assume a policy that suggests "reasonable use" should delineate or describe such somehow.

"Reasonable use can be construed as...?" I'm hitting a wall in my head.

The online research I've done suggests that if you tell people it's okay to use the web for a half hour every day, people that don't use it at all will start using it for a half hour every day.

However, it doesn't seem well enough to just say we retain the right to inspect any communication made over our networks, does it?

Thank yoos!
posted by alice_curiouse to Work & Money (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The good policies I've seen (including the one under which I'm posting this right now!!) indicate that personal use is OK as long as it doesn't have a negative impact either on the performance of required equipment, or on your ability to do your job. That gives you a lot of wiggle room, and empowers employees to make their own decisions. It also takes the burden off you to justify any limitation you want to place (Bob, no more Etsy. Jane, we're blocking Spotify. Fred, we'll turn a blind eye to your Clash of Clans. Etc.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2014 [13 favorites]

I think framing the policy in terms of time spent using the internet is a problem as you explained. Perhaps you could frame it in terms of impact on the business. I.e. Ideally there should be none.

I think you want to get across the message that workers should continue to meet their goals. However the worker wants to structure their day and their use of the internet to meet their goals is their own business and management would only get involved if the goals are not met.

Also perhaps you want to lay out what type of content is not reasonable. Nothing that would reflect poorly on the company, nothing that is pornographic, etc. (I think sometimes workplace policies are describing the obvious!)
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:11 AM on May 6, 2014

There may be other policies that your policy can simply refer to, as in reasonable use means not violating any other company policy.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:14 AM on May 6, 2014

Here's our organization's short and sweet policy that's been in place for several years: "___ allows the personal use of the Internet as long as it does not interfere with official business, increase cost to ___, or embarrass ___."
posted by partylarry at 7:31 AM on May 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Might be worth starting from partylarry's exemplar, but maybe add 'or create a hostile work environment'.
posted by BlackPebble at 7:35 AM on May 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Usage should not be unethical, illegal, unprofessional, or embarrassing to the company in any way. Computer resources are intended primarily for the use of the corporation, and any other use must not interfere with that. Usage must not interfere with the work of other employees, or the performance of any employees duties or obligations. Blah, Blah, Blah.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2014

it doesn't seem well enough to just say we retain the right to inspect any communication made over our networks, does it?

There are multiple state and federal laws regulating wiretapping in ways that are not always obvious. If you have any intent of doing this, have it signed off on by a lawyer that specializes in electronic communications.

If you have the budget and ability to do so, it's a good idea to have a non-corporate network that is completely separate from the work network that employes and attach their personal devices to, both for security and liability reasons.

As far as what is allowed, you can find good examples of acceptable use policies at public universities that can be adjusted with minor changes to your needs.

Rather than trying to quantify a measure of time, (assuming that your employment council says it's a good idea) I would suggest a more general statement such as, "Managers may consider the volume of use of personal electronics while conducting employee evaluations." If you give specifics and don't punish all offenders that break it (I spend more than half a hour each day fiddling around at work because part of my process of solving tough problems is to mull it over while jumping around on the internet - my management is fine with it because I deliver results), if you do punish someone for breaking it, you can be accused of discrimination.
posted by Candleman at 7:51 AM on May 6, 2014

I worked at one place that treated its employees like children, there were so many rules and humiliating policies regarding device use and web surfing, and unsurprisingly, people acted like children and did everything possible to get around the rules.

The places I worked before and since that had reasonable and pretty non-specific web and device policies have had much better morale and people exhibited much more professionalism.

Like, right now? I'm here typing on metafilter because there's a thing I have to do for work that I can't do until someone else does the thing they have to do. That is a-okay, because I will get my work done well and on time, and that's what my supervisor cares about.
posted by rtha at 8:04 AM on May 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

The section of my work policy document "USE OF COMPUTERS, TELECOMMUNICATIONS DEVICES AND NETWORKS" (12 pages total) related to that says:

The (org. name's) computers, telecommunications devices, and networks are to be used only for (org. name)-related work or work performed by approved partners and affiliates. Incidental and occasional personal use is permitted, provided it does not interfere with the conduct of normal (org.) business and meets the requirements of other sections of this document.

This directive applies to all users of (org. name) computers, telecommunications devices, and networks, including all hardware connected to (org. name) computers and networks. Telecommunications devices include, among other things, (org. name) cellular phones, desktop phones, and smartphones.

This other section may be of interest as well:

The (org. name) may monitor the use of computers,
telecommunications devices, and networks for various
purposes, including ensuring the effectiveness and
integrity of the (org. name's) information technology (IT)
resources. Users should have no expectation of privacy
in email, World Wide Web logs and data, text
messages, voice mail, or other files or data created,
transmitted, or received while using (org. name)
computers, telecommunications devices, or networks.
When ensuring continuation of business or
investigating possible misconduct, the (org. name)
may access and disclose all messages sent by its
computers, telecommunications devices, and networks,
as well as any data created, received, or stored on


Note that we are a government org. so need some of this language for ... reasons, but some of it may still be helpful to you.
posted by gudrun at 8:37 AM on May 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

It depends on the character of your company and the expectations of people who work there, but personally I think that writing obnoxiously specific, statute-like policies only encourages rules-lawyering and obnoxious behavior by employees.

Gudrun's policy above ("Incidental and occasional personal use is permitted, provided it does not interfere with the conduct of normal (org.) business [...]") seems like a much better way to go than trying to spell out exactly how many minutes of Gmail/Facebook/cellphone/whatever usage is permitted.

In a modern workplace, trying to track or define how many minutes/day you can spend checking email seems right up there with how many minutes/day you can spend in the bathroom. (Not to mention in strict workplaces, people use the bathroom as a smartphone phonebooth anyway.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot to say above, memail me if you want to see the entire document the above text is extracted from.
posted by gudrun at 5:23 AM on May 7, 2014

Individuals have the privilege of being able to use Government IT resources for non-government purposes when such use:
  1. involves minimal additional expense to the Government;
  2. occurs during non-duty time for reasonable duration and frequency;
  3. does not violate the Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees;
  4. does not overburden any of [department or agency]'s IT resources;
  5. does not adversely affect the performance of official duties; and
  6. does not interfere with the mission or operations of [department or agency].
On the other hand, we have no access to our work network connection from personal devices and our work devices are all heavily blocked from social sites, though (although most shopping sites and a lot of things like XKCD etc. are unblocked, so)...

(Also, I have to take a yearly training on this...blargh.)
posted by anaelith at 7:28 PM on May 7, 2014

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