Social Media Use in the Workplace: Best Practices for Employers and Employees
Social media, which has taken over our personal lives, has also crept into the workplace. Because it is such a powerful force, employers and employees need to take precautions to ensure that the use of social media during the workday is limited and does not harm the overall purpose and goals of the business.
Employers can implement many best practices to help limit the use of personal social media by employees during the workday.
Best Practices for Employers
1) Implement a clear written policy on the use of social media.
Employers need to put in place a clear, written policy on social media use in the workplace. The policy needs to address acceptable and unacceptable uses. The policy may also address usage outside of the workplace or even after the employee leaves the company if that usage could be seen as detrimental to the company.
While it might seem over-inclusive to limit an employee’s use of social media outside the office, some circumstances might warrant this limitation. For example, if the employee is using social media to hurt the company by divulging confidential or insider information, the use should be restricted as it can damage the company’s reputation. It is also difficult to trace who divulged the information on social media and, therefore, harder to discipline an employee for a breach.
2) Make sure the employer complies with local privacy laws.
Employees have a right to privacy protecting their personal information. Therefore, employers who monitor their employee’s use of social media must ensure that their monitoring system is fair to the employees. The policy must be unambiguous, well-documented, and distributed to all employees. It must lay out the full extent and type of the monitoring.
3) Make sure any monitoring system is non-invasive and minimal.
The goal of the monitoring system is to protect the company’s business interests while protecting the privacy rights of the employees. Employers should assign certain employees to the monitoring role and give those employees extensive training on what information to monitor.
4) Tread lightly when relying on social media to recruit or discipline employees.
Be cautious when using social media to help hire new employees or sanction current ones. Social media data can be unreliable, inaccurate or just plain false. Always try to independently verify information found from social media with some other credible source, especially before confronting a current employee. The worst-case scenario could lead to a lawsuit brought by an employee for discrimination, breach of privacy, or a right to privacy infringement action.
5) Keep confidential information confidential.
Employers should make sure that their social media policies include language specifically addressing confidential information. Releasing confidential information through social media, even inadvertently, can have a devastating effect on a company. Make it clear to employees what consequences there will be if that data gets out into the open.
Best Practices for Employees
Employers are not the only people who are responsible for limiting social media use in the workplace. Employees should take equal responsibility in controlling their use of social media at their employment. Here are a few commonsense tips employees can use to keep focused on their job.
1) You are being paid to work, not to socialize. You were hired for a specific job function or to complete specific tasks. If you do not fulfill this role, your employer has every right to end your employment with the company. Do not do personal business on company time or on the company computer. You’ll have plenty of time when you are not at the office to catch up on personal email, shop online, check Facebook, or browse other social media sites.
2) Do not talk trash. Do not say negative things about your company on social media outlets. If your negative comments are traced back to you, you will most likely be fired and, even if that is not the case, you probably will have damaged your credibility with future employers who may read your comments.
3) Protect your reputation. On your personal time, do not post anything on any social media outlet that you would not want an employer to see. Remember that your reputation (both personal and professional) is tied to what you place on social media.
If you have any employment-related questions, please do not hesitate to contact one of the experienced employment attorneys at Garcia & Gurney, ALC.
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