Organizations have to consider the role of social media not only in their marketing efforts but also in their employees’ activities. Creating policies addressing time spent on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and the like at the office must be weighed carefully. Limiting employee access to digital communication tools can impede how they do their job or diminish morale. If it appears that no one in the office is abusing the privilege or is not communicating in a way detrimental to the organization, one may be inclined to just leave the topic unaddressed. However, if abuse or unlawful use does occur, there is little to fall back on if an internal social media policy has not been created.
It is essential for businesses to understand how social media sites are used and to monitor mentions of the brand name to stay ahead of potential issues. Employees should be notified of the expectations of the company while they are at work, from both the use and content viewpoint. In this day and age, it is most likely unreasonable to bar employees from checking their Facebook Page occasionally while they are working. And, there can be some benefits to allowing your workers access, such as mental breaks, strengthened workplace relationships and increased employee retention. Setting clear policies can get everyone on the same page and set a process for appropriate use if necessary.
For the most part, employees should not expect privacy when they are using a workplace tool such as a computer, phone or internet access. Therefore, monitoring at work the type of websites employees visit and the frequency is a reasonable activity. Keeping an eye on the use of company electronic tools may help ward off reductions in productivity, or even dangerous or illegal downloads or website hits which can expose an employer to criminal liability.
An area of confusion for employers is their ability to terminate an employee for posting negative comments about their company. According to National Labor Relations Board regulations, employee social media use is designated as protected concerted activity. Therefore, as long as the activities do not occur during work time and only wages or working conditions are discussed, employees have the right to communicate negatively about their employer. Firing an employee for venting about those aspects of a business could end up in a wrongful termination suit.
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