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Social Media and Social Networking in the Workplace

As social media expands into every aspect of our lives, including the workplace, striking a balance between leveraging social media as a business tool and managing its use by individual employees can be challenging. As more people become social media savvy, concerns over the impact of social media in the workplace are not diminishing over time.

So, what would a happy medium be for employers? Let’s see… 

The Disadvantages of Social Media

First, let’s look at the worries that give companies the jitters when it comes to allowing staff to use social media during office hours. 

1 – It’s a timewaster 

The main perception is that it wastes time. Employees checking their feeds, watching videos and inevitably following links are not, at that moment, being productive. 

2- It’s a distraction 

At best it can mean that employees are more interested in sharing the latest post or doing online games than doing their work. At worst, this lack of interest can lead to costly mistakes. 

3 – It risks the leakage of sensitive information 

People tend to tweet what they’re up to, what they’re eating and where they are. This can inadvertently lead to giving away more than the company would like to.  

4 – People can use the platform to complain about the company 

People like to moan about their jobs. While it’s traditionally been shared with friends and spouses, technology now let’s employees share their gripes with the world.  

5 – Offensive or derogatory comments can reflect badly 

If an employee makes such a comment and they are clearly associated with your company, the issue could land your company in the firing line. 

The Advantages of Social Media

However, social media wouldn’t have attracted billions of users if it didn’t have some redeeming features. Below are some of the benefits to letting your employees use social media in in the workplace. 

1 – It can help productivity 

Just as smokers are less irritable and more enthusiastic if they’re allowed to succumb to their cravings every so often, so are social media addicts.  

2 – It enhances mutual trust 

Employees who feel they are trusted feel more like part of the company and are more willing to go the extra mile for it. 

3 – Some jobs require regular external updates 

All trades benefit from being kept informed about developments in their industry, and social media is the ideal way to stay abreast of them.  

4 – It can be used as an advertising channel 

The average twitter user has about 200 followers. Imagine the reach you’d get if you encouraged 20 staff members to occasionally tweet positive things about your company.  

5 – It enhances networking 

The clue is in the name: “social network”. Companies that treat their staff as assets to the company can benefit exponentially from the connections that their staff make.  

A Social Media Policy: The Best Compromise?

Employers should develop a policy setting out what is and what is not acceptable behaviour at work when using the internet, emails, smart phones, and networking websites. The policy should give clear guidelines for employees on what they can and cannot say about the organisation. It should be clear throughout about the distinction between business and private use of social media. If it allows limited private use in the workplace, it should be clear what this means in practice.  

Disciplinary Procedures 

An employer should try to apply the same standards of conduct in online matters as it would in offline issues. To help an organisation respond reasonably, the employer should consider the nature of the comments made and their likely impact on the organisation. It would help if the employer gives examples in the policy of what might be classed as ‘defamation’ and the penalties it would impose. The employer should also be clear in outlining what is regarded as confidential in the organisation. 

If you need help and advice regarding use of social media in the workplace, or require a social media policy, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Emma Roberts
Latest posts by Emma Roberts (see all)
Emma Roberts

Emma is a trainee solicitor at SCE Solicitors. Emma commenced her training contract in September 2018 and is currently working in the employment law department assisting director Samira Cakali. Emma also assists in the running of the firm’s myHR service where she can support you in the day-to-day management of your staff.

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