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Conducting Personal Business on company Time: How ethical is that? And where do you draw the line?

Conducting Personal Business on company Time: We tend to spend so much of our weekday hours on the job, we find ourselves tempted (or have no option but) to conduct personal business on company time; examples include setting up doctor's appointments on company phone lines, making vacation reservations using the company's computer.
How ethical is that? And where do you draw the line?

Would it be still ethical if we are extending our work days, working from home after hours; hence, "borrowing" the time to conduct personal transactions?
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Sep 11, 2018 12:23 PM
Running personal business via company resources will crossed the line without going deeply.
Both company and employee should deal each other Ethically.(rights and duties) should be fare for both.
Thank you Mansour.

Sep 11, 2018 1:16 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
It depends on the company rules and regulations. For example, in our line of business (We are employees), the working hours are 8:30 - 5:30. However, in many times we have to attend to work earlier and sometimes stay later.

The company fully understands that especially for doctors appointments, there is no other way somtimes other than schedule those appointments during working hours. As long as you disclose this and it is agreed on AND you are fullfilling your duties then I do not see this as unethical.

As you are aware Amany, projects load go in waves, sometimes you are fully hammered and in other times, your work loads goes down. When I do not have much work load, I like to read or study or attend to personal matters and of course I disclose this in advance with my superiors. We are in the 20th century and are all professionals, not in kinder garden so again, as long as you are doing your job fully, delivering what is required (Whether in 1 or 8 hours, that's on you) then that's all what matters. Employers can't really expect people to stare at the ceiling if they are efficient and did their things quickly for example. I hope you got what I am aiming at here.
Thank you Rami. Yes, a flexible environment where management has a good understanding of employees' commitments is more likely to have honest and loyal employees who respect commitments to both the employer and other aspects of their lives.

Sep 11, 2018 3:14 PM
Replying to Dinah Young
When you are working during normal business hours, there will be times that you need to do personal business. It should be comparable to the amount of time that you may spend on a break. Your regular work, schedule, deadlines should not be affected.
We have comp time available. So if you need to do something that will take longer, an appointment, etc, we can make up the time outside of normal business hours. I tend to do some work in the evenings and on weekends anyways.
As professionals we should know what is appropriate. There are always those few who try to abuse the system though.
Thank you Dinah. I agree with you, understanding and flexibility on both sides are the key.

Sep 11, 2018 5:26 PM
Replying to Sante Vergini
Many employees work overtime, a little here or there, take work-related calls outside normal working hours, at home, and even on weekends. That would be conducting business on personal time wouldn't it? So it has to be give and take, as long as it's not affecting the business or your role, and it is acceptable for your managers if they were to know about it. I say "if" because I do not believe every personal matter should be broadcasted to or approved by your manager. "Mr. Manager, can I make a 3 minute call to my sick kid?" Um no! But having said that, matters that take an extended time or render you unavailable, should be transparent to people that matter.
Thank you Sante. I agree, flexibility ; "give" and "take" is the key as long as it's not affecting the business and adhering to the company's policy.

Sep 11, 2018 9:38 PM
Replying to Joshua Render
If you have to deal with something urgent, sick kid at school or arranging to make sure you have daycare after school, I say go ahead. It may be that or you have to leave and miss work. Which would they prefer?

As Sante said, most people (I am guessing, maybe it isn't most people) tend to do work a little more than their 8 hours a day. Because of that, if I have to run an errand in the middle of the day, I am not going to feel guilty. As long as I make sure I have the hours and the work done I need to get done, I don't believe it's a big deal. As long as you don't abuse it and go out every single day to the bar hanging out with "old" friends.
That being said, a lot of employers can be finicky about those things. I have had employers who would go irate if you were 5 minutes late and want to dock your pay, but never give you any credit, or extra pay, when you stayed late to finish last minute urgent issues. Those employers were typically not very open to letting you conduct a five-minute call to arrange for transportation to daycare for your kid.

I work from home now. Have for 3 out of the last 4 years. Some travel occasionally, but usually I am home. I don't use my company computer for personal things. This is being typed on my personal computer. The line blurs a bit between personal time and work time, but I am in my office and available from 7:30 AM or earlier until 5:30 PM or later, minus a half hour to an hour lunch. If I need to run to the post office for 10 minutes during that time, I am going to do it. I am not going to ask, I am just going to go.
Thank you Joshua. It's great to have the ability to work from home fulfilling your work commitments and being able to attend to other matters during the break.

Sep 12, 2018 7:31 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
Amany -

If such activity is forbidden in your company's appropriate usage policies then the question of ethics does not arise if you wish to remain employed there.

If it is not, then it comes down to your own sense of right and wrong and the perceptions of those around you who might be aware of this. Where a case could be made that there is material misuse of company resources you've likely crossed the line.

Thank you Kiron. Company policy has some flexibility, with an e-learning module that provides examples of acceptable and non-acceptable usage/behaviours. However, as you stated, within the "flexible" zone, our reference is our own values, the perception and the frequency.

Sep 12, 2018 9:51 AM
Replying to Eric Simms
The idea of ‘company time’ originated because jobs such as banker or factory worker could only be performed during a company’s limited operating hours. Today, many people have considerable flexibility regarding when and where they can perform their jobs. Generally speaking, I believe a person is working ethically if they accomplish a day’s worth of work within a 24-hour period and doesn’t hinder other people’s ability to perform their work. That said, I work with Engineers in the Information Technology field, which allows an incredible amount of work flexibility compared to most other industries.
Thank you Eric. While some jobs require specific working hours (eg. 9:00 am - 5:30 pm), those with flexible start and end time have "core" hours (10:00 am - 4:00 pm). You are fortunate to work in a flexible environment.

Sep 12, 2018 10:10 AM
Replying to Anupam
It depends on the environment and the culture. However, if the organization is flexible, it doesn't mean one should take all liberty. One must act diligently and in accordance with professional standards, and not to get involved into any action that discredits the profession.
Thank you Anupam. I agree, a flexible environment where management has a good understanding of employees' commitments is more likely to have honest and loyal employees who respect commitments to both the employer and other aspects of their lives while adhering to the company's policy.
1 reply by Anupam
Sep 12, 2018 12:54 PM
You're welcome!

It depends whether your organizational culture allow work-life balance. All managers I know work way more than strictly business hours.

An open culture to share member's availability helps in the team performance. I believe most crucial thing is manage team-interaction ground rules to meet project deadlines.
1 reply by Amany Nuseibeh
Sep 18, 2018 7:05 AM
Amany Nuseibeh
Thank you Ashok. I agree with you - sharing team's availability helps the team to perform better. As a matter of fact, I have a few team members who make sure that their functions will be covered by their peers for the time they are planning to be away. It's quite heart warming to watch their commitment and collaboration; taking "the others" into consideration.

Sep 12, 2018 12:50 PM
Replying to Amany Nuseibeh
Thank you Anupam. I agree, a flexible environment where management has a good understanding of employees' commitments is more likely to have honest and loyal employees who respect commitments to both the employer and other aspects of their lives while adhering to the company's policy.
You're welcome!
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