Internet Challenges Workplace Privacy Notions, Survey Says

Seventy-four percent of human resource professionals say their firms monitor employee use of the Internet at work -- largely due to concerns about lost productivity and inappropriate behavior -- shows a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and West Group. The SHRM/West Group 2000 Workplace Privacy Survey found only 24% of HR professionals consider monitoring of e-mail use to be a privacy issue -- along with Internet use (15%), phone calls (37%), and employee drug testing (28%). Most surveyed professionals believe a company has a right to know how much time an employee spends online and what that employee receives and sends via the corporate e-mail system. Seventy-two percent of respondents said their firms have a formal written policy on monitoring Internet use; 70% on monitoring e-mail and on conducting employee drug tests. "Privacy is a significant issue in the workplace today," says Michael J. Lotito, SHRM chairman. "Employers struggle with needing to monitor the use of company equipment for productivity and safety purposes, yet understand that employees may be sensitive to having less privacy at work. It is important for employers to have written policies in place regarding practices related to privacy and to communicate those policies." SHRM, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., represents more than 150,000 professional and student members globally. West Group, headquartered in Eagan, Minn., is a provider of information solutions to the U.S. legal market.

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