If There’s a Sneaky Way Around a Tech Policy, Your Employees Will Find It

Make sure your employees know the “whys” behind your tech policies. Otherwise, they’ll find ways to work around them — and may even bring your system down in the process.

According to Lisa Guerin, author of Smart Policies for Workplace Technologies, you must explain the policies you write about technology. If your employees don’t see the reasons behind the policies, they will find a way to thwart them.

WSJ Reveals Workarounds

It’s not hard for employees to find workarounds, Guerin says. She cites an article from the Wall Street Journal that showed how employees get around policies. For example:

  • If your company doesn’t allow certain software, access a web-based version of the software or load it on a portable device that you can bring to work.
  • If your company blocks websites, use a proxy site, or do a search and view a cached version of the site.
  • If your company won’t let you send large files, use an online service to manage the files.
  • If your company doesn’t want you working on documents off-site, upload the documents to an online storage service, or send them to a personal email account.
  • Worried about getting caught surfing? Hit the Alt + Tab keys to minimize one window and maximize another.

E-Monitoring in California — webinar next week!

Don’t Write Policies in a Vacuum

One big mistake is to try to write tech policies from within HR. Before writing technology-related policies, Guerin says, get out and talk to people. Be sure to talk to:

IT professionals. It’s silly to write tech policies without consulting your experts first. You might ask:

  • What technologies, software, equipment, phones, etc., does the company support and what does it prohibit?
  • Does IT have the capacity to read emails and instant messages? Track Internet use?
  • If so, does it do so?
  • Does the company block access to some sites?
  • Does the company provide cell phones, laptops, or other devices to employees?
  • Is the IT department aware of problems relating to employee use or misuse of equipment?

Managers and supervisors. Find out what’s actually happening in their departments. You might ask:

  • What technological resources do they and their employees use?
  • Do they have concerns relating to technology?
  • Have they had to discipline employees for issues relating to technology? 

Employees. Make a similar check with employees.

  • What are they doing with technology?
  • What technology are they using?

How to keep tabs on your employees — effectively and legally.

Attorneys. When it comes to issues like monitoring and off-site controls, talk to company or outside attorneys before formulating policies.

  • Are there any special concerns based on this company’s operations?
  • Are there past problems that need to be addressed?

An anonymous survey may be the best way to get some of this information, Guerin suggests. Employees won’t likely admit to policy-violating behaviors during a chat or interview.

Review Policies Regularly

Once policies are written they need frequent review, Guerin says. Because technology changes so fast, you need to review tech policies at least once a year.  If you make changes, be sure to announce and explain them to employees, Guerin advises.

Two Basic Tips

Guerin offers two additional tips for tech policy writing:

Keep it simple. Make your policies clear and concise. Write in short sentences and paragraphs, using easily understood vocabulary.

Know your audience. Write in the language and style that reflects the culture of your company and the education and sophistication of its employees.

In tomorrow’s CED, we’ll look specifically at the tricky area of employee monitoring.


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