What middle ground can employers find to defuse Internet access conflicts with employees?

Hosking: Internet policies vary per company. Some organizations aren't concerned about workers accessing these sites and others may actually encourage visiting social networks and other pages for business purposes. Businesses may consider blocking objectionable websites or those that cause security or network bandwidth concerns, though.

Rather than blocking social networking, shopping and entertainment sites completely, some companies may choose to monitor Web use to ensure professionals aren't getting sidelined by nonwork-related sites.

Many employers are recognizing the need for work/life balance and allow workers to take short breaks during the day to take care of personal matters, which could include making online purchases or other Internet activities.

What stance should employees take on online Internet access?

Hosking: Completing work assignments should remain any professional's top priority while in the office. Some companies do allow workers to use the Internet for personal reasons in moderation, though.

Workers should review their corporate Internet policy for information about acceptable use.

Any tips for employees to stay out of hot water online at work?

Hosking: Professionals should understand their company Web policy. In addition, they should assess their corporate culture, since some organizations allow employees to use social media as a business tool.

Also ...

  • Be aware that most companies monitor employee Internet use. Avoid spending excessive time on the Internet for personal matters.
  • Don't forward viral videos or other irrelevant links to coworkers, and never send objectionable content.
  • Avoid suspicious emails or downloads that may cause security concerns. Alert your information technology team if anything looks amiss.

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