Companies that employ hundreds or thousands of people are the businesses most likely to have written policies to govern workplace behavior and privacy issues, but small firms need to pay attention to such matters, too, according to human resources consultant Carol Olsby.
“You need to make sure that you’re very respectful about people’s privacy rights and that you educate people about what privacy means in your company,” she says.
Even in a small business, it can be helpful to provide employees with a written statement that says computers and IT systems are the property of the company and that using them to download inappropriate material or to communicate disparaging comments or off-color jokes may prompt disciplinary action, she says.
Olsby, a Seattle-based consultant who advises the Society for Human Resource Management on employment and technology issues, offers these tips for businesses and workers.
Stay current on privacy laws. Develop a relationship with legal counsel who can keep you up-to-date, and make sure you are complying with the law. “Have a compliance mindset, and get the resources you need to stay current,” she says.
Recognize that personal messages should be sent from your personal email account and not from work. Don’t send anything through company email that is derogatory or not in line with the company’s policies; and if you do, be aware that it may be grounds for termination.
Also, people who think that it’s OK to send personal messages from work as long as they do it by logging into their personal email account should think again.
“That’s still an inappropriate use of the business computer,” Olsby says.