Most Employers Check Up on Their Employees' E-mail

October 10, 2003 ( - Big brother boss is watching their employees' Internet activities.

More than nine out of 10 (92%) companies check up on their employees’ use of e-mail and the Internet at work. Further, more than a quarter (26%) say this is a regular occurrence and not just one that happens when there is cause for concern, according to a survey by Bentley’s Center for Business Ethics (CBE).

The monitoring was also found to take place behind a shroud of secrecy. Only half of the respondents considered monitoring an issue to be covered in employee training sessions and less than that (44%) involved their ethics officer in the process.

Online activity was not completely censored. Almost all (92%) of respondents allow their employees reasonable personal usage of their electronic systems. The line becomes blurred however when asked to define what constitutes reasonable, as fewer than half provided a definition. Comparatively, managers provided some guidelines with personal use of the telephone; that is to say, where they did not want work patterns, productivity or performance to be disrupted.

Much of the consideration from the employer standpoint on personal Internet use was the protection of corporate interests. By certain kinds of personal usage of e-mail and the Internet, employees can put themselves into conflict with the legitimate interests of their employers. Interviews revealed that employers’ greatest concerns in this area pertain to minimizing corporate risk exposure.