Should Employees be Allowed to Use Social Media?

Since social media hit the front page almost a decade ago many employers have debated allowing employees’ full social media access. Nowadays many companies even have social media policies governing the ways that an employee can access social media in the work environment and whether they can at all.

facebooking at work

For a lot of businesses the idea of social media at work is about a line. Unlike telephone use, where the odd personal call is generally okay, social media use is a little more covert – that doesn’t mean it can’t be tracked. This means that there has to be a balance and respect between the employer and the employee.

The Policy

If you are an employee in a business and don’t know what the social media policy is, the best thing to do until you do know, is to avoid it. Many employers believe that social media is a distraction, addictive and takes up work time through unproductive use.

Employees need to know that it’s very easy for an employer to track and access the social media that you’ve been using on a company computer and this can of course lead to a number of issues if you’re doing so on the employers time.

Benefits

However, this doesn’t mean that social media use at work is all negative there are also some benefits of allowing it and many companies do.

  • A lot of businesses see social media as a tool that works to enhance the happiness and welfare of the employee. By allowing social media to be used as a benefit and a perk business believes its motivating employees.
  • If social media use is placed in the same vein as a tea break, smoke break or a phone call and use is limited to a logical degree it can greatly enhance an employee’s positivity. For example KPMG allows its staff to use social media when at work and they see it as a channel to reach clients and engage with the real world.
  • A lot of businesses believe that social media use is as much a part of daily life as a phone call and as such employees can be responsible in private and workplace capacities once policies are in place.

Negatives

Conversely, a lot of employers also block private social media use believing it to have a negative effect. There are of course legal ramifications among other concerns.

  • Productivity will fall as employees tend to spend their time on social media rather than working
  • There could be network security issues if businesses allow employees to use social media. It’s potentially possible for viruses and other malware to be downloaded.
  • Bullying is also an issue and online harassment in the workplace is a well-documented issue in many businesses. This can be anything from mild fun poking to sexual harassment.

Questions to Ask yourself

One of the biggest parallels and a question you should ask yourself is would you allow your employees to read a paper at work, or even more notably speak about your business to a paper?

A lot of businesses would ask what the difference is really and truly. Most business obviously uses their own brand’s social media to get the word out about their efforts. If your employees take turns to perform your social media outreach you have to ask is this okay too.

Would you allow your employees to create your print adverts or your leaflet design? Would you allow them to utilise the offline marketing mediums in the same easy way you do the online ones. We’d imagine from our experiences at http://guaranteedleafletdistribution.co.uk/ that this would be something that would be far less likely to happen in all honesty.

Offline mediums such as leaflet printing, adverts and posters etc. have been around for a long time and there seems to be a very different mind-set in their creation and the content produced. We’re a lot more vigilant around print than we are around social media and the digital realm – perhaps because it’s harder to erase. However, the converse side is that it can’t go viral like a faltering digital message can. Just a thought.

Alongside the issues mentioned at the top of this article there are obviously plenty of concerns regarding this area of communication? However, one thing that also needs to be weighed up is the smartphone. Most employees carry mobile devices that can be used to access social media, so how far does a policy go?

Social media and employees use in work is a complex issue and one that each business has to consider for itself. As with anything in business, each company is different and what offers merit to one may not to another, so consider the aforementioned and then go ahead and make a decision.

About the Author: Cormac Reynolds is a long time user of social media. He loves the web and twitter especially and has written on the subject for a number of years.

Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan

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