Should employers put restrictions on the use of social media in the workplace?

We have all seen or heard of the good and bad situations with social media in the workplace.

I have seen examples of employees complaining about their boss on Facebook, only to forget that their boss was included on their ‘friend list’ to then get fired. To negative publicity (usually spread by gossip) in the social pages of the media in previous places that I have worked in. But I have also seen business branding grow, as well as social networks and client relationships increase as a result. So I guess when it comes to how social media is viewed by the public, the good and the bad must be taken hand in hand.

Social Media certainly cannot be avoided, it is the way that our generation is evolving, and the faster that news can travel the better.

But as individuals of this generation, are we getting way to distracted by the latest aps, connections and sources of social media that it is decreasing our level of performance and perhaps putting our organisation at risk?

I have worked in previous jobs where the IT Department has been able to block the use of Facebook and personal emails within the workplace. And I have seen first hand the negative results of internal gossip and emails can have when discovered by management (remember we are never the only ones who can observe our own emails at work!)

My parents also work for a financial franchise and they have strict rules when it comes to the use of camera phones in the workplace, especially when they are handling money, vaults and cashing cheques.

At the same time I think it is unrealistic to block out the use of social media entirely. One website that I looked at, identifies the 12 benefits of social media in business:

1. Increased awareness of the organisation

2. Increased traffic to website

3. Greater favorable perceptions of the brand

4. Able to monitor conversations about the organisation

5. Able to develop targeted marketing activities

6. Better understanding of customers perceptions of their brand

7. Improved insights about their target markets

8. Identification of positive and negative comments

9. Increase in new business

10. Identification of new product or service opportunities

11. Ability to measure the frequency of the discussion about the brand

12. Early warning of potential product or service issues

In my current role I am required to keep up to date with the social media aspect of the business with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as my sources of distributing our weekly newsletter, blogs and polls. I find it incredible to see the amount or information that the general public have access to and articles are being posted constantly. We have so much knowledge available at our fingertips that were not even considered options many years ago.

From an employers perspective I can also understand that because social media can also tend to limit privacy, if an employee does something that they shouldn’t and it is exposed to the public with the company’s name behind it, this can cause a negative outlook not just on the employee but the company at hand.

Yet banning social media entirely may be a tad excessive. Another website makes a valid statement to employers who may be considering this option: ‘Trust people, set them objectives (employees), engage them, inspire them, manage them, lead them.  Treat them like grown ups.  If they behave like kids, treat them accordingly and deal with it.  That’s management.  Banning social media says much about the failings of management.  It’s here to stay, take it for what it is, a great tool to reach out in new and exciting ways to customers that five years ago you could only have dreamed of.’

So what were your thoughts on the matter? Some of the feedback from last week has been listed below:

  • Policy guidelines are recommended to ensure that employers and employees are aware of their responsibilities while using social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It is vital to ensure to protect the brand and retain goodwill.
  • Absolutely, social media opens up a minefield of issues for businesses blurring the border between personal representation and that of what the business represents. Therefore it is important to have strict policies and procedures with clear restrictions.
  • Restrictions on company computers of social media would mean more covert and undercover usage on personal mobile phones. If an employee underperforms, disciplenary actions should be taken, if they perform and meet their KPI’s, why restrict their guilty pleasure?

Overall from what I can gather most employers are quite open to the use of social media in the workplace, as long as employees are still representing the company in a professional manner and that the distractions do not overall effect their ability to meet their work deadlines.

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