Should you establish a social media policy for employees? Employers are mixed on how they approach the issue. Pew Research Center reports that just 51 percent of employers currently have a policy about using social media at work. It's a startling statistic, considering that when your team uses social media, it can have both positive and negative impacts on the business. Consider the following when evaluating what your social media policy should look like.
Acknowledging the White Elephant: Distraction and Misuse
A number of different issues may concern employers about social media usage in the workplace. One is distraction: Are employees sharing memes on Facebook when they should be working? The second is brand-related damage: Could an employee say or do something that negatively impacts your company? Both of these factors should be considered in how you approach social media usage in the workplace. A formal policy can help address both areas.
Factors to Consider When Creating a Social Media Policy
Employers considering a social media policy in the workplace should be up to date on the latest social media rulings of the National Labor Relations Board. The National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity. The NLRB has ruled that employees may use their right to “protected concerted activity” to improve working conditions by sharing information about the workplace, pay, and benefits with co-workers and with their union.
Social media factors into the workplace in a number of different ways, from temporary distraction to a core role of completely necessary tasks. Certain positions require access to social media, ranging from marketing and sales to customer service. However, it’s important that employers be aware that the National Labor Relations Act provides protections to workers that may include the use of social media in certain situations, and should be sure their social media policy does not try to limit an employee’s rights under the Act.
Formal social media policies should factor in how social media may be used in the workplace and consider including guidelines that address:
- How social media is used as a formal part of the role, such as responding to customer complaints on social channels;
- Guidelines for appropriate interactions, tone, and content; and
- Clear guidance for when a situation on social media needs to be escalated, such as an unhappy customer review that leads to a PR challenge.
Acknowledge Wider Uses of Social Media
Many workers use social media for more than interacting with customers. For example, employees may use networks like Twitter to source the answer for a quick question or business-focused sites like LinkedIn to network. Determine whether there's a legitimate use for social media in your workflows. Consider determining how much time an employee can spend on social media and periodically ensure that these policies aren't being abused. If you're seeing little actual ROI for an open social media policy, consider establishing guidelines and monitor how it impacts workflow. However, it’s critical to set up guidelines that align with protections under the NLRA and current NLRB rulings.
The Line Between Wasting Time and Taking a Break
When there is no legitimate use for social media within your company, establishing a policy that blocks social media at work may help people focus. However, it may just drive workers to spend more time checking Facebook or Twitter on their mobile devices, which can cause longer-term distraction issues. It's important to consider the context for your policies and balance employees' needs for a break with your need to manage employee productivity.
Establishing a social media policy may be useful to help ensure that workers aren't wasting time online, and that activities that do happen on social media follow brand guidelines. From interacting with customers to finding critical information needed to complete projects, there are certain times when social media can be helpful. Find a way to balance these while developing a social media policy that helps your company achieve its goals and remains in compliance with applicable regulations.