Guiding employees in the use of social media

Many employers have come to terms with their employees spending some of their time in front of a screen on non-work related tasks, whether it’s checking personal emails or scrolling through social media feeds.

Research has shown that at least a third of employees use social media during work hours, and one study found the same proportion use it at least an hour a day (and a quarter of respondents would not work for an organisation that did not allow access to social media). Therefore, blocking employees from using social media at work may seem to be swimming against an unstoppable tide as more companies recognise the business benefits of social media use.

Social media guidelines – an example

Computer giant IBM’s guide to help employees use social media safely and responsibly blends tips on the use of social media tools with general advice on business conduct and upholding the company’s normal standards. The guidelines also:

• hold employees responsible for content they publish online in whatever format or network

• remind employees that what they publish remains public for a lengthy period

• urge employees to protect their privacy and make sure they find out about a site’s terms of use

• tell employees to identify themselves and their role in the organisation when commenting on IBM products or services

• say they must make it clear that they are speaking for themselves and not for the company.

This underlines how important it is to make it clear to all employees their rights and responsibilities, especially given different attitudes to privacy, and what the law says in this area.