Social Media in the Workplace

Social media in the workplace - people round a meeting table using mobile devices

Social Media in the Workplace

For every A-side there’s a B-side. And social media in the workplace is no exception.

Social media in the workplace - people round a meeting table using mobile devices

A similar dilemma for the employer began some years ago when the Internet became widespread. Electronic communication and the Internet, changed forever the way companies communicated and did business. But they brought with it a B-side of new risks and problems.

As this article from Thomson-Reuters on practical law points out, when it comes to Internet use, it’s both a valuable research tool and a source of unwanted information. This might be in the form of pornography or viruses with the power to cripple the business dependent computer systems.

In the same way that clear guidance and company policy steered employer and employees through that particular minefield, you need to find safe passage through the shark-infested waters of social media at work. Indeed, we can describe social media as an inevitable product of the internet revolution. But one which has brought with it its own unique set of pros and cons.

The Social Media at Work A-Side

For the employer, social media is a great way to:

  • Communicate
  • Set tasks
  • Promote their company
  • Support recruitment activity

They often encourage their staff to do the same – urge them to become influencers. Without doubt these are advantageous ways of using social media. Yet, it can have calamitous effect on both the relationships between you, the employer and your staff, and between your employees themselves.

You can achieve steady handling of social media issues in your workplace via careful control of your employee’s social media use. This both within and without the office.

But of course, you must incorporate your social media policy into your staff handbook or contracts – all things that Go-Legal HR can advise you on. Visit our services page to find out more.

The Social Media at Work B-Side

This blog from Small Business.Co.UK highlights five top issues that social media can bring to your workplace. According to them they are:

  1. Bullying and Harassment
  2. Damage to your public reputation as an employer
  3. Using social media during work hours for non-work-related stuff
  4. Work-related social media
  5. Keeping passwords safe

How to deal with them?

  1. Bullying and Harassment

As an employer you can’t prevent staff from having social media accounts. But be clear to all your staff that you won’t overlook any posting of comments likely to be construed as of a bullying/harassing nature.

  1. Damage to your public reputation as an employer

An agitated staff member may take their feelings to their personal social media account. Or they might post comments or pictures on their account, identifying them as your employee. That’ll have an adverse effect on your business reputation.

Prevention being better than cure in every case, make sure there’s a restriction in either the employment contract or a workplace policy. It’s vital you highlight to them, that you’ll treat any trust destroying comments made, in the same way as if they’d said them in the workplace. And that’s a disciplinary matter.  Find out about our employment tribunals service here.

  1. Using social media during work hours for non-work-related stuff

Thanks to social media, your staff have silent access to their friends 24-hrs a day. Hence, it’s difficult for employees to disengage from it when they’re at work.

One way around this is to ban mobile phones during work hours. Many organisations have a clear ‘no-phones-in-the-office’ policy. Unless you’re operating a hot-desking environment your staff will have a desk phone where someone can contact them in emergency situations. In the event that you do have such a system – you give staff an emergency number that goes into your central switchboard.

Further to the topic of mobile use at work, if you’re not going to ban them then  be clear on mobile phone etiquette in your workplace.

  1. Work-related social media

The focus of some social media sites is more on work life than home life. It’s not hard for your staff to find themselves targeted by your competitors.

Though you can’t physically prevent a competitor from poaching a staff member, you can include post-termination restriction on their work activity when no longer working for you. E.g. – you can restrict them from working for certain competitors for a specified time.

Female figure in front of social media icons

  1. Security: keeping passwords safe

Confidentiality Clause

If your staff need to post on your company’s social media sites as part of their job, you must be strict about enforcing confidentiality apropos usernames and passwords.

You must also make it clear to them the boundaries of what they can and cannot post – including giving their own opinions. That may often be a common-sense judgement.  Yet it’s wise not to leave it to common sense and at least give some guidance on where the boundaries lie.  

If you’re a small business without in-house HR support, Go-Legal can help with that or with any of the above.

Get in touch now and we’ll take that HR burden off your shoulders.