Productivity gain can be achieved through utilitarian use of the Internet. Networked organizations foster intra- and interorganizational communications, which amplify team collaborations, information sharing, and relationship building. The Internet also provides linkage to external global information sources, allowing organizations to analyze market trends, predict competitors’ movements, and search for competitive advantages. However, Internet usage in the workplace is also a double-edged sword that can bring liabilities to modern workplaces. Employees can utilize their Internet connectivity and e-mail accounts for a variety of purposes. Publicized cases of Internet abuse in the workplace (i.e., pornography, employee harassment, information leakage, software piracy, etc.) have generated different ethical and legal concerns for many organizations. To prevent such occurrences, practitioners utilize several strategies to deter Internet abuses (e.g., training of proper Internet usage, communicating Internet usage policy, installing Internet monitoring, and filtering software, etc.). These strategies have been effective against such behaviors, but they often decrease employees’ job satisfaction and motivation. Understanding the underlying determinants of workplace Internet usage can bring balance to organizational work and play, and allow practitioners to apply the most effective Internet usage policies to increase job satisfaction. A feasible balance between proper behavioral controls and employee motivation is attainable through the equilibrium of organizational and individual psycho-socio-technical factors. The ultimate goal of this balance is to maintain and improve employee satisfaction and organizational well-being. To identify the appropriate balance, this article examines different perceptions of Internet usage activities and suggests three Internet management strategies.
Aspects Of Internet Usage
Any Internet behavior can be classified as a productive, personal, or pathological Internet usage. This article defines these perceptions as the 3Ps of Internet usage. These perceptions have a direct influence on social/technological/psychological situations of individuals and organizations. Studies of Internet usage behaviors are interdisciplinary in nature; therefore, the stimuli behind each perception still require extensive research that involves a different set of determinants and outcomes.
Productive Internet usage provides a utilitarian view of Internet technologies. Research on information technology adoption, information systems success factors, and technology-task fit all contribute to increase productive Internet use. Studies in this area include creating positive employees’ attitude, establishing organizational/social usage norms, and lowering the psychological barriers of Internet usage. Ideally, productive Internet usage occurs at work. With today’s networked organizations, productive work also can be performed at various virtual offices.
Personal Internet usage involves a recreational use of the Internet. This type of usage occurs privately at home and occasionally at work. Anandarajan and Simmers (2002) define these behaviors as voluntary online Web behaviors during working time in which employees use any of the organization’s Internet resources for activities outside current customary job/work requirements. These activities include any personal use of the Internet at work such as searching for news and entertainment information, conducting electronic commerce, booking a vacation, and using personal e-mail (Mahatanankoon, Anandarajan, & Igbaria, 2004). Most people who engage in such behaviors are aware of their environment, social norms, and organizational policies. The consequences of personal Internet usage also have contradictory ramifications. Some studies suggest that these behaviors lead to productive work life (Stanton, 2002) and organizations should encourage a balance between and work and play (Belanger & Van Slyke, 2002; Oravec, 2002). Other studies find that these behaviors can lead to cyberloafing (Lim, 2002). Table 1 summarizes the benefits and potential risks of personal Internet usage.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Pathological Internet Use: Excessive Internet usage by people as a means of coping with their personal problems or current personal difficulties.
Personal Internet Usage: Voluntary online Web behavior during working time in which employees utilize any of the organizations’ resources for activities outside current customary job/work requirements.
Psycho-Socio-Technical: Factors that contribute to the impact of psychological, social, and technological aspects.
Work/Play Balance: The balance between work and play that increases the quality of work life.
Quality of Work Life: Workplace factors that support the well-being and job satisfaction of employees.