People are living their lives through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Facebook alone has 1.28 billion users, 59 percent of who visit the site every day, and a recent global report by Proskaeur shows 90 percent of all companies use social media for business purposes. Companies are now looking to social media to effectively promote the organisation to clients and customers, as well as to internally communicate among employees.
According to Proskaeur although company social media is increasing, employees’ access to social channels is decreasing at work. The survey found 36 percent of employers block social media at work, an increase on 29 percent in 2012. The amount of employers allowing workers to access all social media sites has fallen from 53 to 43 percent in one year.
So why is social media usage simultaneously rising and falling in the workplace? It all comes down to employees posting negative, inappropriate, and even inflammatory content. As more employees are reprimanded or even dismissed over the things they choose to post on their social channels, employers are paying more attention to what their staff are saying online.
How to Balance Social Media with Productivity
As many people have experienced, one can become easily distracted by social media – a 5 minute breather suddenly turns into a 30 minute break, and this is the risk that leads many employers to completely remove social media access from work devices.
However, it can be argued that employees will take breaks anyway; to make a cup of tea, go for a cigarette or chat with a team member. That combined with the fact that sixty-eight percent of all time spent on Facebook is done via mobile, and with Twitter being even higher at 86 percent, an employer is fighting a battle that cannot be won. If an employee wants to look on Facebook at work or tweet they will simply check social media accounts on their phones or other personal devices.
Employers may want to rethink putting a ban on social media in work. A study from Microsoft showed that there is a correlation between social media usage in the office and increased productivity. It turns out that prohibiting social media access at work can actually be less effective at reducing productivity loss than first thought, and doing so could even reduce employee satisfaction—which could negatively affect productivity more in the long run. The simple act of taking a break, even to catch up on social media, can help employees clear their heads and come back refreshed to tackle projects.
What Limits and Considerations Apply to an Employer’s Monitoring of Social Media Use by Employees at Work?
In most jurisdictions, the main issue is to balance an employer’s legitimate interest in protecting its business versus an employee’s right to privacy.
Key factors to consider are:
- Monitoring should go no further than is necessary to protect the employer’s business interests.
- Monitoring should be conducted only by designated employees, who have been adequately trained to understand the limits on their activities.
- Personal data collected as a result of any monitoring should be stored safely, not tampered with, and not disseminated more widely than is necessary nor stored longer than is necessary.
- Train management and employees in the correct use of information technology.
- Be able to particularize and document any misuse of social media sites by employees.
In Ireland, any restriction on an employee’s right to privacy has to be proportional to the potential damage to the employer’s legitimate business interests. Employers are recommended to have a satisfactory usage policy in place, which reflects the balance between the employer’s appropriate interests and an employee’s right to privacy. The codes of data protection require transparency, fair and lawful possessing of data and the need to ensure that any infringement on an employee’s privacy is fair and proportionate.
Necessary Actions for Organisations to take Control
Before you give you staff free reign on social media in the workplace, put the following procedures in place to take control, whilst leveraging the rewards and mitigating the risks of social media usage.
- Review your company policy to include social media
Your social media policy should be concrete and easily accessible for all your employees who might be confused about their responsibilities when it comes to social media. Your guidelines should be an evolving document, but it also needs to be crystal clear about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in regards to social media usage, both in and outside the office. Be sure to understand the platforms employees are using, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn etc. and continually evaluate the risk and reward of the platforms employees have access to with a corresponding policy.
- Remember employees represent your company
Your employees are the face of your company whether your organisation has a multi-million turnover or is a growing start-up. You need to ensure that staff represent your company in the best light possible and that employees realize that something they say online can impact their professional persona, as well as your company. It is your role as an employer to help educate employees about living in a “professional online world”.
- Invest in training
Take the time to invest in professionals to teach employees and managers how to use social media correctly without abusing social power. Audit the process on an ongoing basis and refresh policies when necessary, to ensure the implemented technology is accomplishing the company goals with quantifiable statistics.
- Use internal social media for teamwork
Social media shouldn’t only be used for 140 character bursts or Instagramming a lunch order. There are a number of internal business social media tools which are helping companies collaborate more quickly through building communication between staff members from different departments and offices.
The contents of this article are necessarily expressed in broad terms and limited to general information rather than detailed analyses or legal advice. Specialist professional advice should always be obtained to address legal and other issues arising in specific contexts.