Social media’s impact on employers and employees has clearly affected the workplace. Most executives agree that reputational risk and social networking is a boardroom issue. No longer a question of “if” or “when,” it has been a matter of how employers can best respond to this quickly emerging and constantly changing issue that can greatly affect employee productivity and how business gets done.
As opposed to traditional and generally more costly media vehicles (i.e. TV, radio, and print), social media encompasses and leverages an ever-changing variety of highly accessible technologies and tools. Companies have observed the usage of social media among their employees and have adopted it as part of marketing and branding efforts. In the process, however, the delineation between what is personal and what is work-related has become a challenge for employers to manage.
While the issues are not necessarily new, it is a matter of how employers appropriately address social media in a fast-changing work environment. Some of the issues involve:
- Electronic Assets. Regarding employee use/abuse of company computer as well as phone systems, many employers have established some sort of employee monitoring.
- Personal Privacy. Depending on the extent, monitoring employee phone calls, e-mail, or social networking sites may leave an employer vulnerable to claims of infringing on employee privacy.
- Confidentiality and Proprietary Information. Workplace policies should be in place regarding employee accountability and responsibility of protecting privileged company and client information as well as any consequences.
- Harassment, Discrimination, and Threats of Violence. Any such evidence, complaint, or violation of relevant company policies must be handled and resolved immediately by Management.
An employer can take essentially four approaches towards managing social media in the workplace:
- Completely restrict access;
- Tolerate it with no monitoring;
- Strictly limit use for only business purposes; or
- Acknowledge it with clear management expectations and company policies.
- A definition of social media for the purpose of understanding the policy.
- An acknowledgment that employees may be using social media in the workplace.
- Explanation and scope of the employer’s right to monitor employee activities on the company’s electronic assets, during work hours, etc.
- Examples (i.e. inappropriate photographs and text) deemed as unacceptable to the employer.
- Consequences of making unprofessional or otherwise harmful publications on the Internet.
Social media has been and will continue to change the work environment. As companies had to struggle with the early days of e-mail and the Internet, employers will need to continuously determine how social media is effectively addressed and applied in the workplace in order to do better business.