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Personal Use of Company Resources

In: Business and Management

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Personal Use of Company Resources

Karen M. Boozer Baker College Center for Graduate Studies

July 12, 2011

Abstract

Everyone, at one time or another, has used company resources for personal usage. Considering all the time that people spend at a desk it is almost inevitable that this will happen. The important thing is to make sure that the usage is not abusive nor against company policy. Research suggests that people either very diligent about excessive usage or very abusive of company policies. The line between the two can be a very fine one but determining what constitutes excessive will always seem to be controversial.

Personal Use of Company Resources
Everyone at some point has used company resources for personal use whether it is office supplies, copiers/printers or computers. In today’s society people spend more time at work then they do at home with their families. There just does not seem to be enough time at home to handle all the things that need to be done at home and that is why employees use company resources for their personal business. How does an employer determine what is excessive and is considered abuse? There are some organizations out there that allow their employees limited use of company resources as long as it does not impact their jobs or the actual network resources. There are other companies out there that have very strict policies to prevent certain types of personal usage to the point that they do not allow any internet access at all. These types of policies depend solely on the company or organization due partly to cost but also to past history of usage from employees. For example NASA’s policy seems to be lenient and allows employees use office equipment and internet. NASA’s policy states that they believe their employees are responsible and capable of balancing responsibility. NASA does qualify that the personal usage should not violate laws, interfere with business and/or official duties and the additional expense to the government should be minimal. (NASA.gov, 2010) Research shows that this written policy is very rare in the way that lists the ways that employees are allowed to use the company resources down to spelling out long distance phone usage, copier paper and toner. Another example would be the State of Texas’ Workforce Center (TWC) and the policy that they have listed where all actual office machines including computers and fax machines are to be only used for official purposes. TWC does also qualify that it is allowable to use the internet briefly and occasionally to check personal e-mail and to surf the internet. Their policy goes on to define excessive as interfering with job function, responsiveness or the ability to perform job activities. (TWC, 2011)
A company called Cyclope-Series has monitored studied 200 employees internet usage from June 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009 with the results showing more usage than what was expected. The following are some of the statistics from the employees during normal working hours (cyclope-series.com, 2010): * Personal e-mail checking up to 5 times per day * 24% spend more than 1 hour per day on social networks while Facebook is the most popular site with 90% of employees logging in periodically * 90% exceed lunch break * Activity starts on average 30 minutes after computer start up.
Abuse of company resources does not only apply to internet usage but there is a large number of employees that commit expense account and travel fraud. This is one of the most common types of white-collar crime that drains billions of dollars from corporations each year. Companies have a tendency to leave the door open when writing policies because they are trying to meet audit and tax law requirements. It is easy for an employee to fudge on their mileage when submitting for reimbursement because while beginning and ending mileage has to be listed there is no way for the company to verify that without looking at the odometer on the employee’s personal vehicle. There are several other ways for employees to perpetrate fraud in relation to expenses for example saying that a more expensive hotel was used in actuality the hotel was lower in cost. Another example is booking a flight for first class “because there were no coach seats available” and then exchanging for a coach ticket and pocketing the difference. (mcgoverngreen.com, 2011) There are many other types of fraud related to expense accounts and they basically relate to the theory of padding the account by saying that more money was spent than actually was spent.
Another form of abuse in with company resources is the supply cabinet. According to SecuritySolutions.com, over 58% of office workers have taken office supplies for their personal use. The most commonly taken office supplies are pens and pencils (77%), followed by sticky notes (44%) and then paper clips (40%). There are also instances where employees have taken office decorations. (SecuritySolutions.com, 2006)
There are a few ways to try and curtail the abuse that happens in the workplace. For example for internet abuse such as putting website filters so the only websites that are available are related to the type of work that is being done. There are a few ways to prevent expense account fraud such as giving a monthly allowance for mileage rather than paying per mile, paying for plane tickets and hotels through the company account rather than employees turning in receipts and in regards to supplies having someone that is dedicated for keeping track of supplies and issuing them to employees rather than leaving them open for a “free-for-all”.
Employees using company resources costs companies billions of dollars a year and while some of the things needed to curtail the abuse will cause more work in the beginning but in the end will help save company money. The issue is that many companies rely on the honor system and the ethics of its employees.

REFERENCES
NASA Policy Directive (2010, June 8). Personal Use of Government Office Equipment Including Information Technology. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/displayDir.cfm?t=NPD&c=2540&s=1G
Texas Workforce Center (2011). Internet, e-mail, and computer usage policy. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/efte/internetpolicy.html
Cyclope-Series Team Blog (2010, February 4). Internet usage work statistics for 2009. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://blog.cyclope-series.com/2010/02/04/internet-usage-at-work-statistics-for-2009/
Green, Craig L. McGovern & Greene LLP (2011). Expense Account and Travel Fraud. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://www.mcgoverngreene.com/archives/archive_articles/Craig_Greene_Archives/expense_acct_fraud.html
Security Solutions (2006, May 9). Watch out for Sticky-Fingered Employees. Retrieved July 13, 2011 from http://securitysolutions.com/news/StickyFingers/

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