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Should You Spy on Your Employees?

As medical practices become more advanced, staff members gain improved access to the Internet during work hours. Cyber-slacking is a well-known problem in corporations; in fact, one study found that over thirty-five percent of employees admit to using the Internet for personal surfing at work.

The New York Times cited that twenty-five percent of Net use on work computers isn’t actually work-related. Although it is unknown how severe the problem is in medical practices, the trend continues to grow.

Beyond basic productivity loss, there are other dangers which result from employees abusing the Internet at work. At one company a staff person was fired for visiting adult websites and distributing the content to co-workers. Apart from the potential embarrassment over such an incident, a practice could be liable to sexual harassment lawsuits. But even if your employees use the Internet in a ‘decent’ manner, simply downloading personal data onto a work computer can increase costs for your practice in terms of bandwidth and storage.

So what can you do about it?

Create clear policies for network use. Does your company have a well understood policy regarding Internet use on work computers? And is this tied to a clearly-delineated disciplinary process? These policies should be included in the employee manual. These same policies are great protection for your practice in the instance of a lawsuit. Also, be sure to get acquainted with applicable privacy laws, normally found under the jurisdiction of state laws, since these vary state to state. [see more about privacy issues in MySpace in the Workplace

You should understand your rights and limitations as an employer. If you have doubts about a particular issue, contact a lawyer who specializes in employment law. In general, all the computers that staff use, along with the content, are company property. In the case of legal issues, as in allegations of harassment or discrimination, e-mail correspondence can be subpoenaed.

Make sure you understand your options before deciding to monitor Internet use. There are third-party monitoring software solutions, but the value of this depends on the size of your practice. Keep in mind that monitoring will add both complexity and cost to your day-to-day operations. Although there are free software solutions available for monitoring your network, operation and installation costs could make monitoring more of a hassle than it is worth.

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