Posted on May 13, 2019

Is checking your Facebook feed, tweeting to friends or posting a vacation photo on Instagram while you’re at work a violation of your employer’s social media policy? According to a Pew Research Center study, 77% of workers report using social media for personal reasons at work even if their company prohibits it.[1] Taking a mental break from work or the desire to stay connected with family and friends during the course of the day are the most common reasons employees use social media during company time.

However, it is not always a distraction. Employees also report using social media platforms to find answers to work problems, network with colleagues, and share information. Platforms such as LinkedIn offer employers recruitment tools, opportunities for branding, and professional development. A robust internal social networking platform can be a trusted means to convey company news and events, answer questions, and engage employees more effectively than through regular email communications.

On the flip side, employers have good reason to be cautious about employees’ social media use.  Potential problems include:

  • Security breaches. Employees may inadvertently download malware and viruses to company networks.
  • Cyber-bullying, stalking, and harassment. Online bullying, threats, and harassment can potentially expose employers to discrimination and sexual harassment claims.
  • Damage to the company’s business and reputation. Sharing of confidential or sensitive company information or inappropriate posts made by employees can do serious damage to a company’s brand and reputation. Once something is posted on the Internet, it may be visible for years to come.
  • Lowered productivity. As with any other online activity, social media can be a giant time suck.

Social media is here to stay and it’s a normal part of life for most employees. Given this reality, employers can harness the advantages and lessen the risks by establishing and enforcing a clear and comprehensive social media policy. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) advises employers to include guidance for employees on the appropriate use of social media, the types of company information that can and can’t be shared, the consequences for misuse and abuse of company time, and more.[2] Finally, a legal review of social media policies and procedures is always a good idea.

This material is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended as authoritative guidance, legal advice, or assurance of compliance with state and federal regulations.

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