Dealing with Unauthorised Tech Use at Work

Posted on Monday, October 19, 2020

Technology at work is indispensable. We can’t imagine the workplace without it!

As beneficial as it is, employees can take it for granted, and the fine line between using technology for work purposes and for personal use is completely blurred. It’s so easy for employees to do unintentional damage if left unchecked.

This doesn’t mean that the employer has to adopt policeman-like tactics. It simply means that the employer should take the responsibility for implementing measures designed to establish clear guidelines related to the use of tech at work.

Often called cyberslacking at work, the use of unauthorized tech bites into productivity in the workplace. While the quantum of work time lost is difficult to establish, some estimates are that it could be up to 20% of the workday. 

Silent messaging and habitual looking at mobile phones eat away at employees’ concentration and work focus.

What do Employees Get Up To?

Internet browsing is commonplace and easy if left unchecked, using company bandwidth. This can soon escalate into absorption into non work related matters.

The constant use of instant messaging and chatting during the day is nearly impossible to avoid, as smartphones rule our lives and drive our fear of missing out on something.

Email is consistently used for personal purposes, meaning that communication used for personal reasons is communicated under the banner of the employer, potentially making the employer liable if anything untoward is said.

Posting on social media at work is dangerous as confidential company information could be shared. This also takes up valuable work time.

Getting employees to change their ways can be achieved through draconian measures, but will this foster good employer-employee relationships? There are some ways to limit the use of company technology and still have happy employees. Let’s look at them:

Useful Control Methods

The immediate measures all employers should take from the outset is to have a clear company policy which is communicated at the induction of an employee.

Bring in the IT team

Starting with the architecture of a company’s networks, get the IT team to gear all technological systems to work. By creating communication and access boundaries, staff can work in a system designed to maximise productivity and limit interrupting influences in the course of their work.

It goes without saying that this would include blocking sites that are deemed distasteful or unrelated to work. Once in place, the technological usage of computers and networks is work focused.

The working from home control dilemma

Implementing a system could help with the work-from-home monitoring issues. How do employers know they are getting their money’s worth?

Employees who genuinely want to give their best will buy into an employee monitoring system and show loyalty to the employer by using a system that helps monitor productivity and daily activities.

Using screen capturing software, together with interactive software, those working from home can be monitored. Even freelancers can work effectively within a system and work at a pace determined by a team of people.

Setting of deadlines and giving feedback helps make employees work focused. In effect, the time spent on social media that would normally be a worry to employers should be of little consequence.

Change in behavior and culture

The organisational culture is molded by a mission and vision statement. A business should be profit driven to succeed. Starting at the top, senior management should lead by example by not being always accessible on messaging apps, they should show leadership, and conduct their tech activities in a manner compliant with company policies.

Maintaining the goal orientation and motivation of employees is greatly enhanced with a program like real-time feedback. But to make the restrictions effective on the use of tech at work, it is up to the employees to buy into the culture and time management regiments of the company.

Employers who allow their staff to set their own limits within the guidelines of downtime breaks and technology use have achieved success in obtaining the productivity they want without being prescriptive.

Review Company Policy

A policy on the use of company technology in the form of a written policy document lays the foundation for employees to know what is expected of them. In the event of transgressions the employer is entitled to implement disciplinary measures. The employer has the right to monitor and limit the personal usage of company assets as it sees fit within that policy.

While it’s best to avoid witch-hunting and disciplinary measures, the right of the company will always be favored over the employee if the policy is in place and the rules are clear.

Mostly, a reward system related to productivity and achievement will incentivize personnel not to laze about reading Facebook or constantly messaging friends during office hours.

Final thoughts

Productivity at work is one of employers’ primary concerns. Human beings are not designed to keep their concentration for eight hours a day. Life is full of distractions, and technology is one of the biggest there is. Whether it’s social media, emails, browsing the internet or smartphones, we are all naturally curious to know what’s going on all around us.

The temptation is always there for workers to abuse company technology. It’s all so readily available to them so it’s understandable. It’s up to the employer to recognize this and to put checks and balances in place.

By doing so the lines will be clear, and everyone should be happy.


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