Social Media in the Workplace

It’s hard to pick up any communications media piece these days that does not contain some reference to online social networking. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube, for example, have become household words. Social media use has exploded, and it’s here to stay. So, what happens when these media are brought into the workplace?

Lots of things can happen. On the negative side, productivity can go down. Employees can spend more time communicating than working. The messages may present the company in a bad light to the public, causing sales to plummet. Employees may talk smack about one another, leading to negative morale to say the least. Trade secrets or other confidential information can be exposed. Or you, the employer might get sued!

On the positive side, social media can add value to your company and your employees’ work by announcing company accomplishments, promotions, and other items of public interest. It can increase morale by allowing employees free expression.

Obviously, there is a fine line between protecting the legitimate interests of your company and putting your head in the sand regarding the use of social media. According to a recent survey conducted by a provider of Web security, ScanSafe, 76% of companies are choosing to block social networking sites in the workplace. On the other hand, you may see some potential benefits from online social networking and be reluctant to institute a total ban.

Whichever approach you decide to implement, you should clearly define it in a Handbook policy. It is extremely important to spell out the permissible uses, if any, and the ramifications for breaking the rules. Also, if your decision is to allow your employees access, consider monitoring their access and adopting guidelines for posting comments, and establishing times when communications are allowed – during lunch, breaks, etc.

The above information is provided for informational purposes and is not to be considered legal advice. Questions, call Larry Elinskas at 804-966-8100.