Before technology became common at the workplace, people bored with their jobs would doodle, read the newspaper, or even listen to the radio and waste time. However, all the doodling in the world cannot compare to the work-time lost every year to internet misuse. A survey carried out by America Online and Salary.com found that employers end up paying almost $760 billion a year to employees checking eBay listings, Googling, chatting online, or just goofing off in general. The fine line between personal use of the internet and work misuse is crossed too often.

For those businesses where employees have to spend all or even part of their workday in front of a computer, the internet is a major distraction. The temptation of having e-mail, chat, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites at one’s fingertips at all times is sometimes too hard to resist. Even though numbers vary quite some bit, depending on occupation and the availability of computers, some employees admit to spending up to three hours a day for personal internet use.

Bartenders may be required to promote on Twitter or Facebook accounts on their days of work and maybe Hairstylists as self-promotion. Most people working for corporations though really have no need to be on Facebook for over 10 minutes a day if most of it is personal use.

While it is not realistic to think that employees will never use technology for personal needs during work hours, setting rules and other measures to protect work productivity is an achievable goal. One of the easiest ways to limit internet misuse is to install monitoring software that tracks surfing habits of all PC users invisibly. This allows employers to see if their employees are doing what they are hired for. Such software can also be used to block internet connections altogether, or to just block selected objectionable sites that employees visit too frequently but have nothing to do with the work they are doing.

Another option is to install internet content filtering software on computers. Since there is no internet censorship policy, inappropriate content containing sexually explicit images or strong language can be accessed from the work place. Filters are a good way of blocking distasteful sites. Different software use different techniques to filter content. Some search for keywords, while others check for sites known for voluntary censorship by the website makers. Some browsers block access to all sites while only allowing access to a list of acceptable ones.

Surveys carried out show that as of 2005, 76% of the companies surveyed monitor employees internet usage. They block inappropriate URLs, track content, keystrokes and the amount of time spent on keyboards. E-mail is being scrutinized, with 55% of the employers storing and reviewing messages.

Another thing that is very beneficial is to draft a clear policy regarding the “responsible use” of the internet that outlines what employees can and cannot do when it comes to the use of e-mail and other resources. It should also contain the company’s policy on the use of social media sites at the workplace. Include some good uses of the web policy and outline why they are good and also some bad uses and explain why they are considered bad.

It is in the interest of a business to rethink their own goals and decide exactly what it is that they want to achieve as a company and what is expected of their employees. Imposing too many policies makes the work manager appear like a Gestapo trying to police the employees. This can lead to a compliance culture and an uncomfortable environment with a lot of mistrust. A better option is to carry out a periodic performance appraisal on individual employees. The management should define tasks, then set a measure of the employees’ success based on the completion of the tasks. If carried out correctly, there will be equivalence’s between the company aims and employee measures and there will be no need to worry about how much company time is being wasted.

If performance is measured against what the employee produces and there is compensation to match the contribution linked to the company’s bottom line, more employees will work honestly. Providing employees with motivation to keep working hard achieves more than policing and spreading mistrust.