Do We Need Employee Acceptable Use Policies For Workplace Technology?
Recognizing the need to be proactive in the hybrid work environment, many organizations are establishing an acceptable use policy for workplace technology.
An acceptable use policy (AUP) is a document that outlines the rules and restrictions employees must follow in regard to the company’s network, software, internet connection and devices. It explicitly states how employees should and shouldn’t use employer-provided technology and personal mobile devices in workplaces with bring your own device (BYOD) policies. If you’re considering instituting an acceptable use policy for workplace technology, here’s what you need to know.
How acceptable use policies improve security in a hybrid workplace
The increase in remote work has led to an increase in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals use phishing schemes and take advantage of vulnerabilities in unsecured wireless networks.
Employees may also install certain types of applications that hackers are more likely to attack.
An employee’s ability to intentionally or inadvertently compromise the security of your company is one of the biggest reasons to consider implementing an acceptable use policy. An acceptable use policy ensures employees understand their responsibilities and rights as well as the company’s expectations of them regarding technology in the workplace. It also helps educate employees on how to identify potential threats and keep themselves safe from cybercriminals.
A detailed, well-organized, and easy-to-understand acceptable use policy can considerably reduce your company’s risk of cyberattacks, data breaches, and compliance violations. It also enables your company to properly hold employees accountable when they violate acceptable use policies.
Potential issues with acceptable use policies
Acceptable use policies for workplace technology can help save your company from unnecessary headaches, but they can also create issues if drafted improperly.
For example, if the policy outlines specific repercussions for certain actions, it leaves little to no room for interpretation or discretion. If two employees committed the same infraction under different conditions and your company decided to fire one but not the other, the terminated employee has grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. That’s why the wording of your acceptable use policy should provide you with the flexibility to handle violations on a case-by-case basis.
An AUP can help reduce your company’s vulnerability to cyberattacks by limiting employee access to certain websites. But if your regulations are too strict, it can negatively affect the employee experience and, in turn, productivity and retention.
Of course, you want to limit opportunities to put your company at risk of a data breach or virus. But not allowing employees to check their personal email or take a quick mental break to read a news article gives the impression you don’t trust them to be responsible, which can seriously hurt morale. Plus, research shows that giving employees a reprieve from their work can substantially improve their performance.
How to draft an effective acceptable use policy
Here are some guidelines for creating an acceptable use policy that is easy to enforce and easy for employees to follow:
- Clarify the full scope of the acceptable use policy, including which technologies it does and does not cover and the situations in which it’s applied, with examples of real-life scenarios.
- Give employees reasons why they should adhere to the rules and standards of the AUP instead of just telling them it’s required.
- Explain how the acceptable use policy will be enforced, including the consequences employees face for failure to follow it, and what disciplinary measures will be taken.
- Don’t be overly specific to the extent that you create unintentional loopholes. For example, use broader terms like “mobile devices” instead of “iPhones and iPads.”
- Use language that even an individual not in your industry could easily understand and define industry- and company-specific words, phrases, and acronyms.
- Track all revisions made to the acceptable use policy along with the date(s) on which the change was made and when it was communicated to the workforce.
- Ensure the acceptable use policy protects the company without impeding an employee’s ability to do their job or interfering with business goals.
- Do not attempt to address every hypothetical event or threat; focus only on the risks employees are most likely to encounter.
- Have both the human resources department and your company’s legal advisor review the acceptable use policy to make sure it is lawful and doesn’t violate the rights of employees.
- Regularly review and update the acceptable use policy to guarantee all current technology and risks are addressed and no obsolete technology is referenced.
Invest in secure, user-friendly workplace technology
For many companies, it makes sense to have acceptable use policies for workplace technology. For others, it may not.
But if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that workplace technology should be accessible and so easy to use that employees don’t even have to think about it.
When technology isn’t easy to use, employees find work-arounds—including downloading various third-party applications that haven’t been properly vetted.
Considering 60% of organizations have experienced a breach from a third-party provider, your IT team should be vetting every workplace technology solution carefully.
That starts by asking the right questions and asking them to provide a detailed security policy that includes:
- How they maintain data privacy
- Where they store data, and what protections are in place to safeguard it
- Whether they encrypt data in transit and at rest
- How they manage access to their network and systems
- How they identify vulnerabilities in their network, such as through regular penetration testing
- How they review their software code for vulnerabilities
- How they manage integrations with third parties
iOFFICE + SpaceIQ uses best-in-class policies to maintain data privacy and security, starting with our software development process. We have documented processes to comply with the most highly regulated industries and address any concerns your IT team might have. At the same time, over customers consistently give us high ratings for having the most user-friendly technology on the market. In recent surveys, 93% said our solutions were easier to use than other comparable tools.
If you’d like to learn more about how we help you improve your employee experience while protecting your valuable data, schedule a demo with us today.