You have to question the sanity of organisations that are happy to become completely reliant on email communications while exposing themselves to the dangers of having little control over their employees' use of these systems.
Intentionally, or just through the creeping influence of 'accepted practice', employees are taking their bosses for the ride of their lives. In every company a large percentage of email is non-work-related (as much as 40 per cent, according to IDC research) and this directly affects productivity.
Most company directors imprudently believe that they are protected against email abuse just because they have devised an acceptable usage policy for email. However, in most cases employers still have little or no control over how much time their staff spend on non-work-related email.
In most companies, the problem has reached epidemic proportions, with email abuse affecting not just the productivity of a company's own employees, but also the productivity of the companies their mates work in.
And companies should not believe that they are already protected against employee email abuse just because they are using content filtering and blocking software to police email usage. These 'security controls' are a positive first step but they don't go nearly far enough.
This filtering and blocking software at an organisation's perimeter can track email only as it enters and leaves a company.
However, employees know their internal, non-work-related email goes unchecked. Staff may look engrossed in their work when frantically typing away, but actually they are just as likely to be sending the latest joke to their colleague across the office.
Employees enjoy the challenge of trying to beat filtering and blocking tools and it is too easy for them to find ways around it.
Smart users have now started to embed inappropriate content into Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents, conning the perimeter software into believing they are sending business-related emails.
What is needed now is passive, non-invasive management of all email that will effectively track employee usage without compromising privacy. This will expose abusers and create awareness among staff that email abuse is an unacceptable practice.
We must act now to stem the flow of what is fast becoming a stealthy way for employees to steal time.
Brendan Nolan is chief executive of Waterford Technologies
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