Are Your Employees Watching Porn at Work?

Last Updated Aug 17, 2010 8:34 PM EDT

According to The Nielsen Company, 29.5% of adults who use a computer to access the Internet at work visited an "adult" site in March alone. That's almost as shocking as revelations that senior Securities and Exchange Commission employees were trolling the web for porn while the economy was crashing and burning. So what can you do to make sure that your employees aren't doing the same? According to Stanley Holditch, Internet marketing manager at InternetSafety.com in Acworth, GA, keeping your company porn-free requires a combination of smart human resources policies and the right filtering technology. Here's his advice:

Establish clear rules regarding Internet use. "But make them rules that your workers can realistically follow," says Holditch. It's tempting to ban all non-work Internet usage in order to prevent access to pornography, but that's not practical. "While outlawing all frivolous (non-work related) Internet use makes sense from the employer's perspective, it's not realistic and goes against studies that show small amounts of time allowed for non work-related activities actually increases production by lowering burnout," says Holditch.

Choose a transparent Web filter. Unless you suspect an employee of illegal activity, don't take a "gotcha" approach to monitoring employees' web usage -- let them know that they're being monitored. "When employees know they are being watched, you stand less of a chance to catch an employee in the act," says Holditch. "But you also dramatically decrease the chances of someone accessing porn and someone else seeing it." All it takes is one person seeing a pornographic image on a company computer to create a hostile work environment. Can you say "lawsuit?"

Filter Web usage selectively. "Unless you are running a gulag-style workplace, the last thing your managers need to do is cement themselves as the Internet police on every single transgression," says Holditch. "Choose a filter that is customizable to where you can accurately filter the bad stuff and just place time limits on everything else." If you've decided that each employee gets, say, 45 minutes of personal Internet time per day, you don't need to worry about whether they spend that 45 minutes on Facebook or ESPN. You just need to know they're not going to be able to get on Hustler.com.

Don't rely on your web security provider to properly filter porn. "Security companies are very good at what they do," says Holditch, "and the same goes for online content companies. Get a filter that has years of experience sifting through the subtle differences of a soft-core porn site and an online swimsuit catalog."

What's your view of web filtering technologies in the workplace? Are they an invaluable productivity and safety tool, or do they make you shudder and mumble "Big Brother?"

Cartoon image courtesy of Flickr user Overmarslee, CC 2.0