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IT use at work, how screwed am I?

(46 Posts)
bonnieweelass Fri 04-Nov-16 20:33:27

Will try to keep this short but changing some small things so not to ID me.

Have worked in current company for over 10 years. Same role 9 years, higher role this past year.

Busy job and I often take work home to work in evenings and weekends.

I like my manager, I thought we had a good relationship, friendly, from same town etc.

But these past 3 months problems have been occuring.

In September I had to make a complaint of disability discrimination - reasonable adjustments had not been made. It is resolved now but I remain unhappy it happened in first place.

In October, my manager expressed concerns about my performance but assured me it was all informal and he just wanted to help me and see me progress within the organisation. He felt I wasn't meeting deadlines. I have told him several times I have simply too much to do. I also reminded him of my disabilities/health conditions and he said he would make a referral to occupational health to see how I can be supported in work.

November, he tells me he thinks I am using the internet excessively and IT are investigating it. He asked what I'm looking at and I said I stick to breaks and business use outwith breaks. I was panicky and upset as it was a bit out of the blue and I was struggling to remember what I'd looked at. He kept repeating 'don't panic', 'calm down', 'if its business use then that's okay'.

But I've been thinking of the sites I access and I know it will come up and I will be challenged. These sites include:
news sites - not just during breaks
youtube - partly for work reasons (we post videos online) and also for background music whilst I work - it helps with my stress levels (I have mental illness - disclosed to my manager and HR previously)
twitter/linkedin - again for work, I tweet about our events and good news. I never message anyone during working hours.
mumsnet - lunch break only and I never post anything, just surf.
I worry there may be something else I've forgotten.

Also, 5 years ago I was suspended for the internet usage (plus other things). I got a second stage written warning. HR confirmed after a year that it was no longer on my record but what if its brought up again this time? Is that likely?

Also, how likely am I to be suspended again, given that last time there were more things I was accused of? I do not want to put my family through that again, the stress and worry nearly killed my dad. I ended up in hospital myself.

Two colleagues who I trust say I am being discriminated against and victimised. One is leaving due to unreasonable workload and the other is jobsearching.

I'm shit scared and I need some advice and reassurance from anyone who works in HR (public sector) or is a legal type.

bonnieweelass Fri 04-Nov-16 20:34:40

PS I have spoken to my union and the rep feels this is all very suspicious and my manager isn't following proper procedures.

Thatwaslulu Fri 04-Nov-16 20:37:13

Have you been given an action plan for the alleged poor performance? Do you have reasonable adjustments for your disability? It's good that you are speaking to your union.

Thatwaslulu Fri 04-Nov-16 20:38:44

Also, is there an IT policy which specifies when you can use the Internet? I work in the public sector and "reasonable use" is allowed, even outside of breaks.

HermioneWeasley Fri 04-Nov-16 20:38:45

If what you've said is accurate then you've got nothing to be concerned about

You could also raise that you feel victimised for your previous complaint of disability discrimination.

If your workload isn't viable then this is an opportunity to discuss this too

bonnieweelass Fri 04-Nov-16 20:52:05

Reasonable adjustments are in place for one of my disabilities, not the others. One of the adjustments I have made myself (adjusting my computer screen) does make it appear I'm trying to hide my screen when I am simply trying to see it better.

Our internet policy is vague. It says 'reasonable use', but doesn't IMO give much detail as to what 'reasonable use' is. Most people accept it as lunch time. Union rep said between 12-2 which is the majority of my usage time. However my lunches can be interrupted or taken at different times of the day.

I think I may have forgotten to close down some sites, I'm wondering if that will be the issue, and it looks like I'm on some sites all day when I'm not really.

I'm scared. I'm scared I'll lose my job (main breadwinner) and I'm scared of my parents reaction should I be suspended or sacked.

My family suffered a bereavement in August and its been a tough few months. I can't add to this stress.

underneaththeash Fri 04-Nov-16 21:12:45

Personally, I would never use work Internet for anything that was not work related - that's what phones are for.

When you do have your discussion state that you do not think your usage is excessive and state what you have been doing with your internet time during work hours. But I really would not do anything unrelated to work on work Internet in the future

BoredOfWaiting Fri 04-Nov-16 21:32:07

It all sounds fishy to me. What your describing in terms of your internet use sounds very reasonable. I wonder if your employer is discriminating against you because of your previous claim which would obviously be outrageous.

I know it's hard but don't panic and jump to conclusions. You haven't done anything wrong. You need to be calm in order to state your case and stand your ground.

EBearhug Sat 05-Nov-16 01:47:14

Make sure you've got copies of the Internet poly, also disciplinary procedures and anything like a code of conduct or employee handbook. Hopefully you won't need it, but better to be prepared just in cae, particularly if your manager isn'the following procedure.

Have you got proof of the hours you work at all. You say you take work home - would you be logged into work systems (in which case it should show in some electronic records somewhere,) or do you work offline on local copies of documents? There will still be timestamps on documents and so on.

He said you aren't meeting deadlines and you say there's too much to do - do you discuss priorities with him, do you know what your main focus should be, and which things are okay to delay or drop?

Also, how have you been coping with the bereavement? After my father died, I knew I wasn't totally focused, but I thought I was doing okay, turning up to work every day. It wasn't til my manager took me aside and said I was basically useless to him at the moment, and if I couldn't show I was trying to do something about it, he'd have to start disciplinary procedures, that I realised I wasn't coping as well as I'd thought. He was supportive and understanding in how he brought it up. Fortunately, the company offered counselling among the benefits. The reason I mention this is in case you might have let things slip more than you realised because of everything else going on, as I had.

Having said that, it does sound lke he's trying it on, but if you've thought about all these things, you'll be more ready to defend yourself.

I hope it all comes to nothing and things improve for you.

daisychain01 Sat 05-Nov-16 05:30:01

OP can you segregate your internet usage by using your own personal iPad during breaks if there is wifi at work.

Given your past problems of using Internet, I would try to take a risk averse approach and not use any non work Internet site. Eg I only ever use my work laptop for our internal work intranet and my MN surfing habit is kept to my iPad.

Ebearhug you make an excellent point about bereavement. So sorry about your DF, I have had that very problem at work. My DBro passed away in Feb (when I'd only been in post for 4 months) and I've soldiered on for months thinking I could cope when in reality it has been a nightmare. My lesson learned is not to be a hero, it's critical to raise awareness so reasonable allowances are made. Unfortunately people just expect "you must be over it now" sad

Bonnie, pls keep your Union involved for support, if they think your manager isn't following protocol, they can represent your best interests.

bonnieweelass Sat 05-Nov-16 09:03:23

Thank you everyone.

Yes I take my work laptop home with me and log into emails etc. I have looked at the policies but I will print/store copies of them.

I've requested another meeting with the union rep as I'm scared. My manager will act all reassuring 'just want to help' in meetings, then he'll follow this up with emails that scare me, which is what he did the other day.

In the meeting I had requested as I needed clarification I had asked him outright if this was formal and he was all no no no, its informal, but did say no reason to worry yet. and its the yet that worries me.

the email he sent summarizing our meeting confirmed IT check still going ahead.

I always delete my browsing history, have done for years, but that won't make a difference will it?

Also we have IE for internet which is very slow so everyone has downloaded chrome and use that instead. We are not supposed to but IT know about it and even one of the IT techs told me to use it. But if its not our main work internet browser, does that make any difference to my case?

Sorry I'm not really an IT expert.

FinderofNeedles Sat 05-Nov-16 09:35:57

bonnie : But if its not our main work internet browser, does that make any difference to my case?

Doubt it. The policy will be about accessing the internet at all, using company equipment. They usually want to be sure you are not accessing
porn, racism, 'how to make a bomb' and anything that would reflect badly on them as an organisation or on you as a person. In addition, there is the issue of browsing non-work related sites during time you are paid to work.

Re not closing the site: logs will probably show how long you stayed on one page. If you were on the same page for 5 hours, then (I'd say) the likely reason is that you hadn't closed it down, not that you read the same page for 5 hours.

Good advice upthread about forwarding things to a personal email, as backup; and also being very strict about your usage from now on.

If one of my staff was complaining that they have too much work yet are spending work time browsing the net for personal reasons, I would not take their complaint of over-work seriously.

bonnieweelass Sat 05-Nov-16 09:48:42

ultimately I want to know if my job is at risk, my manager's attitude indicates its not but of course IT report and HR might change that.

I do not look at porn, racist material, gambling or anything like that.

I'm hoping this can be resolved informally or written warning at the most but having to wait to find out is creating a lot of stress.

EBearhug Sat 05-Nov-16 12:15:10

I always delete my browsing history, have done for years, but that won't make a difference will it?

No it'll still show through the work servers - I have in the past been asked by HR to search the history of an employee who was surfing for poem at work, and the logs showed exactly which sites he was on. That definitely leads to dismissal, but you won't have anything like that on your history, so that's fine.

Don't worry about the browser - that won't make any difference and if they really wanted to insist you only use IE, they could make sure you can't get Chrome at all.

I don't think you have anything to worry about other than your manager being a git. From what you say, it doesn't sound worth more than a rap over the knuckles, unless you've let something major slip, but obviously we can't know the full ins and outs of it here. Good luck!

bonnieweelass Sat 05-Nov-16 14:31:02

Thank you so much, I can't see it being severe enough to suspend or fire me but you can't help but worry can you?

I get my work done, I've never had a complaint in this role from either colleagues or customers. I really like my team and they are supportive. Today I got a message from one asking if I were okay.

One of the girls is leaving. We are a small specialist team in a very large organisation and won't be getting a replacement. I'm kinda hoping her leaving will help me in that they won't want to lose someone else (she's lovely and don't want her to go so feel bad for feeling like that). God I hope noone IDs me now...

notaflyingmonkey Sat 05-Nov-16 14:37:37

Your employer has a duty of care towards its staff, including you. If you feel that you are suffering increased stress due to shortages of staff within the team, that hasn't resulted in a loss of workload, then that is something that needs to be addressed by the union, or by asking for action plans/clarity over priorities of work etc.

Shakey15000 Sat 05-Nov-16 14:48:01

Hope it works out ok. If so, then going forward, I wouldn't be accessing ANY internet that wasn't directly work related and certainly not on a work pc during official breaks. Especially having been suspended for it previously and it being highlighted as a concern again now.

teacher54321 Sat 05-Nov-16 15:02:11

In the nicest possible way why on earth have you been using your work computer to access non work sites at all when you have had prior formal warning for your internet usage at work? If I ever look on Facebook or whatever at work I always do it on my phone-wouldn't dream of doing it on my pc. Someone once said to me that when at work on your computer, always imagine your boss is looking over your shoulder reading every word you write. So therefore never any swearing in work emails/bitching about colleagues, and no browsing for holidays or going on mumsnet. I hope all goes well for you.

artiface Sat 05-Nov-16 15:19:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

artiface Sat 05-Nov-16 15:21:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bonnieweelass Sun 06-Nov-16 19:55:05

sorry me again, you can probably tell I can't stop worrying about this sad

last time I was suspended whilst an investigation was carried out (it was a very long drawn out suspension) and although linked to internet use it was linked to malicious colleagues/bullying and they had gathered additional evidence to build a bigger case.

In this situation I'm in now, I've been accused of misuse of internet but I'm still at work whilst the investigation goes on. Could I still get suspended or simply asked to a disciplinary?

I'm pretty certain they will find something they don't like. It doesn't look work related at all but I think I can evidence it is. Whether they will believe me, I don't know.

I wish my manager wouldn't give me such mixed messages. One minute he's all supportive, it's all informal don't worry, and wanting to 'help' me, then he's talking about performance improvement plans and IT investigations, and occupational health and counselling.

We're a huge organisation so whilst he might want to 'help' me, HR might think differently.

I can't handle this wait to find out what will happen. I still can't sleep. I'm thinking of going to see my doctor (not to sign off sick because that won't make the problem disappear) but to maybe get some medication sad

I'm sorry I really don't have anyone else to talk to so I keep posting on MN. DH alters between supportive and angry. I hope my DPs never find out as they'd kill me. They made it clear last time they would not support me again.

Shakey15000 Sun 06-Nov-16 20:27:52

Obviously we don't their policy but I imagine they could suspend at any time or invite to a disciplinary. What is it you fear they have "uncovered"?

I would be gathering any evidence I possibly could ASAP and building my "case". Could you cite dates of youtube use and provide evidence it was linked to work? You need some sort of "timeline" if you can and pin those instances to work related stuff. Have you got anything in written/email form from IT saying it was ok to use Chrome etc?

I totally understand the stress but you need to focus on how to handle the worst case scenario.

bonnieweelass Sun 06-Nov-16 20:52:59

I can't recall dates nor do I have anything in email form. I intend to try to gather evidence to support my case and I have requested another meeting with my union rep. I'm not too sure how she can help me though other than be a presence at any disciplinary and advise me.

They are likely to uncover lots of youtube use and news site use. The majority which is work related although I do listen to music in the background via youtube which is my biggest concern but this is not every day and not even every week.

I can't lose my job, I simply can't. As a person with multiple disabilities I am very unlikely to ever get another job.

Shakey15000 Sun 06-Nov-16 21:04:56

Could you email IT tomorrow in a kind of "Just checking, as mentioned back in May (or whatever) that using Chrome is ok, thanks" to try and get an email response.

Any links you can get to projects/work will be useful. Try and think of what you watched/listened to and tie them in (even tenuously?) with work. Ditto the news sites.

As for the listening to music, I think you're left with arguing what is defined as "reasonable use".

Not sure what else to advise other than the above. Apart from be non-defensive, and be as calm and measured as you can.

ForgotStuff Sun 06-Nov-16 21:35:21

They will be able to see what and when you accessed web sites. If you only did it in batches during lunch then I imagine that would be ok. The YouTube music might not look too bad if it were really long pieces of background music but if you were constantly searching and playing different songs then I can see that that would look bad. I doubt Having pages open in the background would be a problem.

With things like Twitter they will be able to see what you were accessing and if it was only work related then they will see that. It will be the same with the news sites - if it's work related they will be able to see.

Anyway, I hope everything works out. I'm not surprised you feel worried but it sounds like you should be ok.

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