What is an acceptable use policy?
An acceptable use policy (AUP) is a document that spells out the rules and limitations that employees must adhere to when using the company’s network, software, internet connection, and devices.
In companies that adopt a bring your own device (BYOD) system, it specifies how employees should and shouldn’t utilize employer-provided technology and personal mobile devices.
For hybrid workplaces and coworking spaces, a workplace technology policy is important to ensure the space is covered and taken care of if something goes awry. Consider looking into one if you fall under one of those categories.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about implementing a workplace technology acceptable use policy.
Pros and cons of acceptable use policy for workplace technology
An acceptable use policy for workplace technology can significantly benefit your company, but before diving into it, it’s important to understand not only the benefits of one but also the drawbacks and to make an informed decision on the matter.
1. Cyber security:
The most significant benefit of an acceptable use policy is the security it will bring you. Cybercrime will cost companies worldwide an estimated $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. In addition, cybercrime has had a growth rate of 15% per year. This means that the threat is serious, and any action that can be taken against it should be implemented immediately.
It is very easy for employees to breach data security by infecting software with a virus in any company, whether they do it intentionally or accidentally. Because of this, many companies have suffered tremendous losses. A great way to keep this in check is to develop a technology use policy for employees that highlights the dangers and the responsibilities of each employee.
2. Employee awareness and responsibility
With an acceptable use policy, employees will be able to get a chance to comprehend the situation fully.
With a well-written policy, employees should be able to understand their obligations and rights and the company’s standards for them when it comes to technology in the workplace. It will also assist employees in learning how to spot possible dangers and protect themselves from hackers.
A well-organized, thorough, and simple acceptable use policy can significantly lower your company’s risk of cyberattacks, data breaches, and compliance issues. It also makes it possible for your company to hold employees accountable when they go against the policy they signed off on.
3. More clarity and transparency
With a technology use policy for employees in place, more people will be able to get a clear understanding from the very beginning. This is also good as there will be transparency between the higher-ups in the company and the employees. With a concise and clearly written acceptable use policy, you can inflict a sense of understanding and a set of expectations to your employees that will make them more productive.
Although an acceptable use policy has very few drawbacks, there are two key ones that are important to recognize when drafting your policy.
1. Dangerous if done wrong
If your policy isn’t clear enough or has vague wording then that can lead to a whole lot of problems. For example, if you have a vague explanation of the consequences of an employee breaching the policy, and one gets terminated, and another doesn’t because of the different situations that were not necessarily accounted for during the formation of the policy, then the employee that was terminated would have grounds for a lawsuit under a lawful termination act.
With that in mind, there are many other ways of not explaining something well enough that could result in a potential lawsuit. So if you’re considering drafting one, make sure you get advice from various people on how to make it as simple yet as concise as possible.
2. Negative employee experience
Another important drawback of acceptable use policy for employees is that your employees may feel very restricted and therefore, it could cause a negative experience for them. For example, they may feel too monitored and too afraid to do anything that is too vague to discern.
In your policy, you want to make sure you encourage acceptance and the reporting of violations. You also want to have some sort of leeway, for example, employees being able to take breaks and read articles online using the company devices (since most online news outlets are fairly safe in terms of viruses).
Creating an acceptable use policy for employees
Now that we’ve gotten the pros and cons out of the way, the next step is creating the acceptable use policy itself. There are many ways to do this, but below we’ve provided you with a few important tips to consider when drafting your policy:
What should it contain?
- Purpose: Specify the purpose of this policy and give a reason for why it is important and why it is being implemented and a broad idea of the policy, like a summary. It is also important to list all the technology to which this policy will apply.
- Scope: Who the policy applies to. Make sure that you mention that the policy will apply to everyone in the company, including the executives to rule out any unfair treatment.
- Responsibilities: Here is where you would write the duties of every employee including the acceptable uses for the devices in question and the unacceptable uses. Make a bullet point list and keep it as simple as possible.
- Monitoring: For this section, make sure you include how the policy will be enforced and how the employees will be monitored, if applicable.
- Security and confidentiality: This section will be to explain any security or confidentiality clause that the employees are subjected to. It is important that they understand this well.
- Breaches/Investigations: This section is important to highlight the consequences that will arise should an employee go against the policy they signed. This could include the terms of an investigation, and the actions that will be taken, such as a suspension or even termination of employment.
- Administration: Here is where you will write how the acceptable use policy for workplace technology will be administered (usually within the country or state’s regulations in and any rights to the company to modify the policy.
- Questions: You can add a section where you explain where any employees who have questions about the policy can ask about it.
- Agreement: Finally, your agreement will be the last part of the policy that will be a section for your employees to be able to sign, including a statement stating that they understand and agree to the terms of the policy, as well as space for the date and a signature.
For an example of an acceptable use policy for employees click here.
Tips for creating your acceptable use policy:
- Describe the complete extent of the acceptable use policy, including which technology it covers and when it is used and real-world instances.
- Instead of just reminding employees that they must follow the AUP’s norms and standards, provide them reasons to do so.
- Describe how the appropriate use policy will be implemented, including the repercussions for violating it and the disciplinary actions that will be taken.
- Avoid being too precise to the point of creating unintentional loopholes. Instead of “iPhones and iPads,” for example, use wider phrases like “mobile devices.”
- Use terminology that even someone who isn’t familiar with your field can comprehend, and describe industry- and company-specific terms, phrases, and acronyms.
- Keep track of all changes to the acceptable usage policy, including when they were established and when they were communicated to the workforce.
- Ensure that the acceptable usage policy protects the organization without obstructing employees’ ability to execute their jobs or interfering with corporate objectives.
- Don’t try to handle every possible occurrence or hazard; instead, concentrate on the risks that employees are most likely to face.
- Have your company’s legal adviser and human resources department examine the permissible use policy to ensure it is legal and does not infringe on employees’ rights.
- Review and update the acceptable use policy on a regular basis to ensure that all current technology and dangers are handled and that no obsolete technology is mentioned.
An acceptable use policy is vital for a company looking to protect its security and make sure its employees are aware of the ways that can happen. An acceptable use policy for employees has excellent benefits and some drawbacks, which are essential to understand. In addition, when creating an acceptable use policy, it’s essential to understand the structure and the way it should be written and approached.