I recently received a phone call from an employer who was frustrated with his employees’ frequent computer use, or better said, misuse. After allowing him to vent, I learned that the employees were using various social networking websites which not only slowed down his computer network, but left his clients waiting for assistance. He operates a small 3-person dental office and in an effort to increase business decided to do some internet advertising. He knew that his staff was computer savvy, so rather than pay an outside company, he asked them to set up a business page on various social networking sites. His staff would work on the pages during slow periods and even showed him how to communicate using the websites. He began to notice that many times during the day his employees were on one of the social networking sites and assumed that they were responding to inquiries from potential clients. Fast forward 6 months and he has patients that are complaining about the hold time when they call and not receiving return phone calls from his office. He also noticed that small tasks he asked his staff to accomplish were no longer completed right away.
When he called Workforce Solutions he needed advice. Could he reprimand his employees for their computer use since he was the one who requested that they use these sites to advertise his business?
I asked him if he had an employee manual and his answer was like most small business owners, “I’m working on one.” I explained that employees can’t follow a policy they are not aware of and gave him three basic steps for implementing the policy.
The first step was to put a computer use policy in writing for his employees. The policy should define in detail the appropriate and inappropriate use of the computer. It should also include specifics on when employees can use the computer for personal use and for how long, as well as, the consequences for not following the policy.
The second step I suggested was that he meet with his staff so that he could thoroughly explain his expectations. He could answer any questions and provide any clarification where needed. This could eliminate any vague interpretations of the policy and perhaps bring to light any scenarios not anticipated.
The third and final step was to have his staff sign and date the policy. Without this step the policy would be nothing more than a piece of paper or work place suggestions.
I also provided him with the link to the Especially for Texas Employers Handbook, so that he could view some sample company policies, as well as, have an additional resource for other employer “hot topics.”
Workforce Solutions provides solutions to business owners who need help dealing with workplace issues. Contact a Business Consultant at a local career office for assistance or contact my office, the Employer Services Division, by phone at 713.688.6890 or by email at Placementinfo@wrksolutions.com.
Lisa Bogany is a Senior Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. She has over five years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers, and over 10 years experience in small business entrepreneurship.