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Setting an Office Internet Policy


Ok, you've decided to have your office personnel join the digital age, now what? How do you teach your employees to effectively use the Internet and all of its resources to improve your bottom line and still resist the enticements offered on the Internet?

By enticements, I not only mean the bad, such as the porn and gambling sites, but even good sites can turn out to be incredible time-wasters. It is important to guard against employees spending valuable time on the Internet - time which needs to be spent on running the office. So, how do we bring in the technology of the Internet to your office and still maintain the professionalism you've strived so hard to achieve?

As a business owner, you not only have the right - but the responsibility to set an Internet Policy. Why? Left to their own interpretations, employees often falter in their understanding of what is expected of them. How much time should they spend on the Internet? Is an hour too little or too much? From the employee's point of view - they may see this as just another responsibility added to their already busy schedule. If you are asking them to spend considerable time online - consider also an increase in salary or a decrease in other responsibilities.

First, understand your expectations
What do you want the Internet to add to your office? If your goal is just to appear up-to-date and modern in other's eyes, your doomed to failure. Frankly, adding Internet access is more than just eye-candy, if you're not going to utilize it to its fullest, you'll probably tire of quickly. The only thing worse than not having the Internet is having the Internet with all of its perks and not using it effectively.

Separate Phone or Connection Line
It is imperative that you have a separate line for your Internet connection. This is not like home where someone will call you back if your line is busy. A busy signal in your rental office will often send your prospective resident to the next phone number on the list - which is often your competitor's.

Email is Essential.
Of course, you'll want to add email as a means for prospective customers to contact your office and for you to contact them. Answer all emails promptly. Your customers expect it. Refrain from giving each employee their own individual email address. Without their own email address, they will be less tempted to send and receive emails from friends and acquaintances, which can get excessive, especially if they join a mailing list. Viruses, often sent through emails, as attachments, are less likely if emails are kept to a minimum and are strictly business related. Don't allow employees to open an attachment from someone they don't know. And never open any file with an .exe extension. Viruses are often sent as .exe files. Don't reply to spam email. Often they are sent out anonymously to many combinations of addresses and when you reply, you give them a valid email address to add to their database. Always check your email at least three times a day - first thing in the morning, mid-day, and before you leave. Remind your employees that all email may be reviewed by you at your request.

Surfing the Internet
Guidelines for employees must be set on Internet use. How much time, if any, do you want your employees to spend online? Do you need research done? Are you trying to track down someone? There are great resources on the Internet but often it takes a while to find what you are searching for and time seems to slip away while you are concentrating on your search. You must determine the best use of your employees time - researching online or the tedious - but necessary - office paperwork. Set the time guidelines.

The ultimate problem is - Will your employees honor your guidelines? What will they do when you leave the office? How can you ensure their cooperation? The newest alternative is software that can control who has access to your computers and how they are allowed to use them. It is tentatively scheduled for release in early April. The software program - known as !Lock-Out! - is the answer to not having time nor inclination to monitor your employees consistently. You are able to program who can use your office [or personal home] computer, what hours they can use it, what sites they can visit on the Internet, whether they are allowed to download files, which files they can access, it tracks their use [and abuse] as well as many other features. !Lock-Out! can be set up for multiple users and requires one master - the person entrusted to enter the parameters.

The end result, whichever choice you make whether putting the responsibility on the employee or taking charge of the policy by installing the !Lock-Out! software, you must have an Internet Policy in your office. Make it a priority and write one up today.


Connie Eccles, Rockford Apartment Association Assistant Editor also runs her own desktop-publishing business and is CEO, researcher, writer and editor of the Midwest's #1 information website ComPortOne. For more information on the soon-to-be-released software program !Lock-Out! email lockoutinfo@comportone.com


Business articles by Connie Eccles, Editor of ComPortOne
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