Social media - tips for creating a policy

A recent report has found that UK employees on average spend 13 hours a week on social media at work. The study also claims that the most common time for employees to utilise social media is between 3pm and 5pm – with 57% of UK employees admitting that this is their preferred time to ‘check in’ with their social accounts.

Social media usage clearly has the potential to impact on productivity and is therefore becoming a growing issue for employers, with many unsure of the best way to address and manage usage by their employees. Employees posting confidential company information or making defamatory remarks is also a cause for concern.

There have been several high-profile legal cases involving social media usage at work, which provide clarity to employers on the potential dangers of not having clear policies in place. A social media policy should set out clear rules on the use of social media and if appropriate, provide some positive guidelines on responsible use.

Here are some tips to creating a social media policy for your employees:

  • When crafting your social media policy, you should consider the size of your organisation, its culture, and the nature of your business. If your business uses social media as part of its marketing, you will need to carefully explain the purpose of this and how employees are to engage with the content created. Limiting access to the main company social media accounts to only one or two employees is sensible for several reasons, but importantly to keep a tight rein on what is posted.
  • If you want to use your employees to help spread your message via their social accounts, i.e. by liking and sharing company posts via their own accounts, again, guidelines should be provided setting out what is and what isn’t acceptable.
  • With the recent statistics on social media usage suggesting employees are spending upwards of 2 hours a day on social media, employers may want to try and limit or restrict usage. Some employers prefer to avoid confusion and opt for an outright ban on social media during their ‘normal’ hours of work. This can present problems where a company want to take advantage of social media usage – as described above. It has also been suggested that this approach may conflict with employees’ ‘right to a private life’.
  • Limiting usage to certain hours or during official break times is another option, creating some boundaries for employees to observe.
  • A corporate social media policy should specify what sites employees are allowed to use at work.
  • A number of the cases involving social media that have gone to court concern the ownership of contacts, so once you have decided what your approach will be, this should be detailed in your social media policy.
  • Employees should be made aware of the consequences of defamatory comments (made either against fellow employees or the business itself), posts that may affect the company brand or the sharing of confidential or sensitive information on social media. Employers can find themselves vicariously liable for bullying or harassment of fellow employees using social media, so it’s important to setting out a clear stance on this.
  • The social media policy should set out any disciplinary action that will be taken if the policy is breached. In general, any issues with employee social media usage should be treated using the same procedures as any other kind of disciplinary or grievance matters.

It’s important to remember even with a social media policy in place, an employer needs to look at the situation reasonably and objectively based on the circumstances involved.

For further advice on creating a social media policy, or for guidance on implementing or enforcing social media guidelines, please contact us.