Last week we discussed five important workplace policies that can help businesses owners moderate individual and social behavior in the office, with the goal being to create an environment in which workers can feel both comfortable and focused. This week we will concentrate on something that can significantly help automate and accelerate company operations, but can also be incredibly distracting: technology.

If you’re not too concerned about employee distraction, consider the other reasons for implementing policies regulating technology use.

A misuse of the internet or electronic devices in the workplace could expose confidential aspects of the company to the public; it can also create liability on the part of the employer for illegal activities performed on an office computer. The policies covered here can help you minimize behaviors that might compromise your company’s liability, stability and security.

These policies can be distributed to all employees, or they can be signed by employees upon hiring as a part of the company’s Employee Handbook, a document that includes company policies, job requirements and employee benefits, among other important company information.

1. Computer Use

If your employees are using company computers, either in or outside of the office, it’s a good idea to have an Employee Computer Use Policy. This policy helps clarify acceptable uses for company computers and dictates how employees should proceed with updating software and making computer repairs. It also covers unacceptable uses of work computers, such as performing illegal activities or compromising the network in any way.

2. Internet Use

For companies where employees use the internet frequently, an Internet Use Policy can add an extra layer of security. This not only prohibits employees from visiting any sites that have questionable or inappropriate content, but it re-emphasizes a ban on illegal activities, such as online fraud and music piracy. There have been several cases where record companies filed suit against employers whose employees downloaded music on a company computer; make it very clear that pirating of any copyrighted content is strictly prohibited.

An Internet Use Policy also addresses the content that employees share on social media, blogs and other sites during their workday. The policy should prohibit posting negative or personal information about the company on social media, blogs and other third-party sites without the consent of management as well as any parties referenced.

If employees are suspected of improper internet usage, an Internet Use Policy that states that such employee's internet use may be monitored and that they could face sanctions for any discovered violations could be a wise policy for an employer to have in place.

3. Cell Phones

Whether cell phones are supplied by the company or not, employee cell phone use can be extremely distracting. These days almost every employee is bringing a cell phone to work, so having an Employee Cell Phone Policy can help set guidelines for silencing cell phones, turning them off in meetings and generally minimizing phone-related distractions on the job. It can also detail procedures for the use and maintenance of company-provided cell phones.

4. Other Devices

If the nature of the work environment is such that you believe the use of mp3 players, portable game players and any other devices will create an unacceptable distraction, you can consider implementing this policy, which strictly prohibits the use of electronic devices during work hours.

5. Video and Photography

In order to protect private business operations and confidential information that may be captured by an employee in the office, you can strictly prohibit the use of cameras with a Videotaping in the Workplace Policy. You may, however, choose to allow employees to capture some company activities on camera, since they may be useful for company newsletters or promoting company culture; for more relaxed guidelines on workplace camera use, see here.

As discussed in our previous article on Key Workplace Policies Every Employer Should Know (to read article, click here), because workplace policies do, unfortunately, get violated from time to time, you should consider establishing an Employee Discipline Policy. However, be careful not to implement a discipline policy that puts your “at-will” employment policy at risk. Find more recommended Workplace Policies Every Employer Should Know here.

Article by Rochelle Bailis