You own an agency and your business uses computers and the Internet. Do you regulate how your employees use their work computers? Should you? Can you?
The answers to these questions are complicated, but they are vital to your business’s success; even a small business can lose over a thousand dollars a minute when its systems are down. The $64,000 question is, how do you protect your business from the consequences of non-work related technology use? What steps do you take to guard against the results of your employees’ personal use of their work computers?
Develop Appropriate Technology Policies
Nobody likes being the heavy. As an agency owner, you want to maintain the creative culture that makes your company come alive. But as an employer, you have to balance that with the level of professionalism you expect from your team. Technology, through the computer and the Internet, has muddied the waters considerably.
Consider the following scenarios:
Janet, the front-desk receptionist, has idle time when she’s not performing work-related activities. During this time she often works on a newsletter for her church group that she’s a part of. This includes printing the newsletters on the office color laser printer. Is this an appropriate use of your agency’s resources?
Sarah, your art director, decides to sync her personal iCloud account on her company computer. As it syncs her 70GB of pictures, it slows your agency’s internet speed to a crawl for several hours. Even without the impact to the internet connection, is personal data is OK on company Macs?
Scenarios like this are extremely common in today’s workplace. The best way to prevent problems like this is to have company policies outlining what is and is not acceptable use of your agency’s technology. These policies need to have some teeth - and your willingness to use those teeth if necessary. Again, these policies should reinforce the key components of your culture while making sure your technology investments serve your business.
What Types Of Technology Policies Should You Have In Place?
We feel these are the three most important areas -
Policies should cover the use of company-owned computers, internet, email, phones, printers, and storage. What is OK? What’s not OK? They should cover what is appropriate and inappropriate use of company technology and outline consequences for not playing by the rules. These policies would also detail password guidelines, access to the company network, confidentiality of agency processes, and the appropriate use of data.
Develop written contingency plans in the event of fire, flood, or other calamity that would compromise the structure of your building. In short, how will the business continue to operate in the event of a catastrophic event?
Intellectual Property/Portfolio Rights
Who has the right to legally display the work your agency creates? Normally, this policy will flow from the Agency agreement you have with your clients. But it’s amazing how many agencies don’t communicate to their team what is and is not OK for their designers - and especially freelancers and contractors - to display themselves. We suggest making this a standard policy communicated throughout your agency.
Agencies expect their employees to “follow the rules” and “exercise good judgement”, but very few actually lay out defined boundaries and expect them to be followed. I’m not a huge Seinfeld fan, but in one episode George is called to his boss’ office to discuss some bad behavior. When asked about it, George’s response was “Was that wrong?”. By laying out the rules, you make sure your technology works effectively and your business and employees are protected. The last thing you want is to sit an employee down to discuss a problem and hear "Was that wrong?"