Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Should Employers Ban Personal Use of Social Media While On the Job?

By on October 22, 2009 in best practices, social media with 0 Comments

Not Approved sign (Big Stock Photo)Did you know more companies are banning employees from using social networks while on the job?

Oh, really? Not one tweet, or a single Facebook comment all the live-long workday? Surely some folks will go into withdrawal. That stuff is addictive, you know.

Meantime, Iran tried to ban use of social media, and that didn’t work, so what chance does an employer have of making the rule stick?

Yet more businesses are adopting a no-if-ands-or-buts stance on the matter.

Outright prohibition

Robert Half Technology, an agency providing information technology professionals for both part-time and full-time needs recently polled 1,400 CIOs regarding company policy on worker’s visiting social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter while at work. Here are the results:

54% Prohibited completely

19% Permitted for business purposes only

16% Permitted for limited personal use

10% Permitted for any type of personal use

1%   Don’t know/no answer

A press release about the survey notes Robert Half Executive Director Dave Willmer’s sensitivity to employers: “Using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some companies limit access.”

Willmer goes on to state, “For some professions, however, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools, which may be why about one in five companies allows their use for work-related purposes.”

Why single it out?

Social networking for personal purposes is a diversion from work responsibilities. So is making a personal phone call, replying to personal email, engaging in small talk around the office coffee pot, taking a cigarette break, surfing the Net, and any number of other ways that individuals may not be 100% on the job while on the company clock.

And let’s get real; outright prohibition is impossible to enforce given the prevalence of smartphones, which offer ready access to the Internet, and hence all those social sites.

The trend is only going up

Social media is undeniably an ever-growing mode of communication. For many, it’s as familiar a way to converse and share information as the telephone and email. That goes for personal and business use.

Risks are real

Companies are wise to be cognizant of social media — to promote their own purposes, and as pertains to the potential for it to turn into a time suck on employee productivity.  Even if someone intends to jump on just for a quick jolt, it’s easy to get entranced on these platforms.

There are reputation risks. Workers may post comments that reflect badly on their employer, and perhaps themselves. Anyone can do the same offline. Bad judgment isn’t limited to the social media sphere.

Establish a policy

When change happens fast, and with force, it can be difficult to know how to handle the disruption.  That’s what’s going on here. Two years ago Twitter’s audience was limited — now, it’s where major news breaks. Facebook has in excess of 300 million users.

Companies do need to devise ways to deal with all that comes with this new circumstance.

But a ban? Well, that’s just plain crazy talk.

The sensible thing to do is to create and publicize a policy that establishes reasonable practical parameters for employee use of, and behavior on, these networks. I wrote a post about this in August. It spells things out nice and simple.

For additional resources and actual examples of social media policies, hit these two links:

Social Media Governance: Online database of social media policies

List of 40 Social Media Staff Guidelines (from blog of Laurel Papworth)

Companies are made up of people, not robots.

Bottom line: Organizations must be mindful about what is a realistic solution here.

Employees may be resources, but they are human resources.

– Deni Kasrel

Related post:

How To Create A Winning Corporate Social Media Policy

Do you think employers should prohibit personal use of social networks while on the job? Is it even possible to enforce such a policy? What do you think? Comments welcome.

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

No Comments Yet

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. LaNeshe says:

    As you mentioned, this is another activity that will happen at work that takes employees away from focus like a smoke break or chit chat. I think it’s unrealistic to try to ban it, especially since a person doesn’t have to be on the office computer to do it (smart phones) but there has to be a monitoring if the use gets too extensive. Nice post!

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      LaNeshe,
      Exactly. While the majority of people are reasonable when it comes to accessing social media while on the job, some will go overboard. A reasonable and realistic policy is the way to go.

  2. Bruce Kasrel says:

    One other thing to note is that posting on social sites is not only trackable by your employer but also your NEXT employer. Hearing more and more about recruiters and hiring managers looking at the time stamps of postings to see when people are posting to sites. Something to keep in mind in these times of layoffs…

    • Deni Kasrel says:

      Bruce,
      What an interesting point. Indeed, the considerations and repercussions go both ways. There are effects to employer and employee when it comes to use of social media while on the job.

  3. Timo says:

    I just realized that I had promised to send you the link to our social media policy and never did. As you can see it is very progressive and embraces employees using social media.

    http://sm4good.com/2009/11/04/social-media-staff-guidelines-international-red-cross-red-crescent-ifrc/

    I agree that there are risks – but there are always risks. I think from a communications point of view we have to see employees more as assets and less as risk. But of course that also means that they need to be assisted and not just left alone.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top