Social Media in the Workplace: Appropriate Use and How to Manage it

18 Nov

Are your staff constantly fiddling about on their phones? Do you feel that staff are spending too much time on social network sites; do you feel they appear distracted from their work because the ‘ping’ of a new message is more enticing than the task they are supposedly working on. You may even have heard your staff at the more mature age spectrum, raising their eyebrows at the tedious obsession their younger colleagues have with their smart phones.

Apart from feeling irked about the perception that a good proportion of your workforce are social media addicts, there are some altogether serious questions employers are asking about the ever presence of social media in the workplace.  A QC recently commented on the angst experienced by employers about the pervasive presence of social media usage and issues arising from this emerging area of law ( The QC’s blog discussed the vexed question of who owns LinkedIn contacts; a matter of particular concerns to those in sale roles.  We commonly get questions around the perceived time wasting by employees, constantly checking their Facebook status, Whatsapp etc. Employers are naturally worried about lost productivity and the sometimes thinly veiled resentment from colleagues about colleagues ‘getting away with’ ‘time stealing’.  We are being asked more and more about what is/isn’t permissible to monitor, and how, about social media and internet usage.

An important starting point in staying in control of the ubiquitous presence of social media in your workplace is to have a policy and will well drafted and communicated.  Most employers already have guidelines for internet and email use; it’s important to have a policy on social media and social networking.  It’s essential to set clear guidelines for what is/isn’t acceptable with regard to social media usage.  Some employers adopt a fairly liberal approach to social media usage. Typically where the business revolves around technology, employees will be permitted to access and use social media quite freely on the basis of trust.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have employers who forbid employees from even having a smart phone on their desk.  In the middle you have employers who restrict usage to break times.

Where ever you sit on this spectrum, your policy as a minimum should cover:

·         Behaviours which are acceptable and unacceptable (e.g. cyber bullying and harassment)

·         Instructions on the boundaries between professional and private settings.  There have been a number of cases where problems have occurred because an employee made inappropriate posts believing the setting was   private

·         A clear statement on firms monitoring practices

·         Examples of behaviours that could lead to disciplinary actions

·         Instructions of what is permissible with blogging and tweeting

Having a well written and communicated policy will diminish risks of reputational damage, confidentiality breaches and will minimise the likelihood of management time becoming entangled in investigating transgressions.  If wrongdoing is discovered, the policy will provide the premise for quickly tackling the offending behaviour.

On monitoring, it is prudent to have a statement in terms and conditions, which could read something like, “It is company policy to monitor the use of social media platforms, whether or not accessed for work purposes and whether or not accessed during working hours.  Any breach of company policy whether in or out of work may lead to disciplinary action.”


Did you miss our Social Media Webinar 2-part series? Follow these instructions to listen on demand:

Bracher Rawlins, Lotus HR  & ICAEW Webinar: Employment Perspectives

1.       Access booking page from link -

2.       Click ‘book here’

3.       Register with an email address

4.       Click add to basket

5.       Select checkout

6.       Agree to terms and Conditions

7.       Process order

8.       You will receive an email- “On demand webinar booking confirmation”.  Click the link “Watch on demand” to view the webinar