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Social Media in the Workplace – An HR Perspective

We live in a highly connected world. Thanks to the internet, it’s not unusual for your employees to chat to people in distant countries, share images with thousands of followers, and interact with anyone they want to. From a business perspective, however, this can be problematic.

The Issues with Social Media in the Workplace

There are several issues associated with employees using social media. These include:

  • Confidentiality breach. There’s potential for employees to share information of a confidential or sensitive nature; such as sales figures, customer details or future business plans.
  • Damage to the brand. Social media is often regarded as a prime place to have a rant after a hard day at work. This can cause problems for your brand image, particularly if specific names are mentioned. Likewise, if an employee expresses a controversial opinion (e.g. regarding politics), this can reflect badly on your company.
  • Lack of damage control. In most instances, when a post is live it has the potential to go viral. This means it can be shared limitless times and seen by literally thousands of people. Posts can be removed, but once the message is ‘out there’, it’s difficult to reverse the damage.
  • Security threat. It’s not unheard of for employees to inadvertently share security information on social media (for example a password). This can be a serious threat to the business, especially if you’re not aware that it’s happened.

Encouraging Proper Use of Social Media

Some reports suggest that employee misuse of social media costs the British economy billions of pounds each year. Many of these instances could have been avoided, had the proper workplace policies and guidelines been in place. Such measures include:

  • Specific guidance in the Employee handbook. As HR experts, we always recommend giving new recruits a copy of the Employee Handbook. This details all workplace policies, including proper use of social media, and establishes expectations right from the start.
  • Identifying clear boundaries. Employees need to be explicitly informed as to when they’re perceived as representing your brand, and what this means in real-life terms. It may be necessary to hold an educational session to explain what defamation is, and how their conduct on social media could potentially damage the company.
  • Outline disciplinary action. It’s important that employees understand that misuse of social media (if it impacts the business) could result in disciplinary action. Explain what this will entail, to ensure that they grasp the consequences of any such behaviour.

Work with an HR professional. An HR expert will be able to assist with the following:

  1. Screening future employees in terms of their social media profiles / online habits
  2. Creating a solid social media policy for your handbook
  3. Handling any disciplinary issues that may arise as a result of misconduct on social media


Harris Law – South-West HR Expert

If you’re concerned about use of social media in the workplace, or you need assistance with any other HR-related matter, get in touch with Harris Law. We’re HR professionals and we’re here to help your business run more smoothly and effectively. To find out more, call us on 01803 861086.