Social Media Use in the Office: How to Avoid Potential Problems

Social media has become ingrained in our culture throughout the world. Thanks to the popularity of platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as the prevalence of smartphones, it’s easier than ever to check your social media accounts several times a day.

However, for businesses and their employees, social media use can sometimes do more harm than good. Using social media for personal purposes during work hours can have a negative impact on both the business and the employees. Social media use may end up hindering employees’ chances of being selected for future jobs or promotions as well.

But, there are also many benefits to social media. Businesses big and small often have their own social media accounts. It’s a great way to connect with people, and it’s cost-effective when it comes to advertising. So, do the benefits outweigh the risks? What can you do to protect your business and your employees? Should you have an office social media policy in place?

What Are the Social Risks of Social Media?

A distracted workplace can mean less work actually getting done, which in turn can lead to employee dissatisfaction. Once this trend starts, it’s a difficult cycle to break.

Social networking is meant to encourage and promote social interaction. Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect —, especially in an office setting. Cyberbullying is a huge problem on the internet, and if you allow personal social media use in your office, you’re putting your employees at risk. Everything from hurtful or threatening messages to “status updates” about being annoyed at work can be shared between co-workers. Not only does this affect general employee morale, but it can also make collaboration and teamwork nearly impossible. Another social risk is productivity. Research has shown that companies who allow their employees to use platforms like Facebook in the workplace lose 1.5% of their productivity. Though your employees can absolutely use social media for business and work purposes, it’s far too easy to get distracted by the latest trending news on Twitter or what their friends are sharing on Instagram. A distracted workplace can mean less work actually getting done, which in turn can lead to employee dissatisfaction. Once this trend starts, it’s a difficult cycle to break.

Finally, how your employees use social media could damage your business’ image or reputation. It may also put you at risk for confidentiality breaches. If your employees post something negative about your business on their personal pages, a bad reputation could quickly grow. Or they could post something confidential that was supposed to remain within the company (ie; a future product, contest, promotion, etc.).

What Are the Technological Risks of Social Media?

On top of the potential social risks of using social media in the office, there are technological ones to consider as well. These technology-based risks include things like:

  • Hacking
  • Malware
  • Service interruptions
  • Unauthorized access to different social media accounts

Hackers who commit fraud through social media platforms are always after information from businesses. If they’re able to get into your business via one of your employee’s social media accounts, they could do things like damage your network or corrupt files within your system.

It’s important to have a strong tech support team on staff, or one you trust that you can hire to keep your networks safe and secure within the office. But, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you plan on letting your employees use social media at work, having protective measures in place to safeguard your systems should be a top priority.

The Risks of Social Media Use at Work for Employees

Not only can social media affect people already in the workplace, but it can also affect you if you’re looking for a job too. Up to 70% of employers now research potential employees via their social media accounts and online presence before hiring them. There are a variety of different reasons employers might be turned off by what individuals share on their accounts. It’s important that job applicants optimize their social media profiles. Here are some examples of questionable content on social media that can affect a user’s employability:

  • Inappropriate content, including excessive profanity, drug use, or engaging in criminal behavior.
  • Their account demonstrates poor communication skills, unethical behavior in regards to previous employers, or posting too frequently.

On the other hand, employers also might think twice about hiring you if you have no social media presence. Businesses want to get to know their employees as people, not just as workers. Showcasing your personality and what you like to do can be a great way to get noticed for a job. Further, inappropriate messages between employees on social media, where supervisors cannot moderate communications, can lead to cases of sexual harassment. The ramifications of such instances are major for the employees involved as well as the employer. As noted by legal experts with Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP:

Sexual harassment or sexual advances may … come from colleagues and other coworkers, as well as non-employees who are affiliated with the employer. These non-employees may include both independent contractors and clients of the employer. In this day and age, workplace sexual harassment can even take place over the internet or other types of social media.

So, while you shouldn’t delete your social media entirely, you should absolutely pay attention to what you’re posting. If your company uses social media vetting in your hiring process, consider what you’re looking at to assess potential employees. If you’re looking for a job, take stock of what is already on your social media accounts and how it might affect your chances of getting hired.

What Are the Benefits of Social Media Use in the Office?

It isn’t fair to talk about all of the risks of using social media in the office without going over some of the positives. Some evidence has suggested that, when it’s used correctly within the workplace, social media can actually help to increase productivity and become an important performance management tool.

First, it can be used by managers to give feedback to other employees. It also allows employees within the office to really connect and learn more about each other outside of work. It helps to break down barriers and make everyone feel like they’re in the loop. Research has shown that 82% of employees think social media helps to boost their work relationships. When employees know they’re able to take breaks throughout the day and check into their social media accounts, they can also feel more relaxed and less stressed, which can lead to improved performance.

There are obvious pros and cons to consider when it comes to social media use in the office. Unfortunately, a lot of research and studies can be contradicting. What’s most important is implementing a system that works for you and your business. Establishing rules about social media and how it should be used by employees within the office is a great place to start. Putting these rules in place can help to avoid potential problems, and your business may even start to see some of the potential benefits of social media use at work.

Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner
Brooke Faulkner is a mom, writer, and entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest. She loves all things literary, doggish, and plant-based. Of those, words are her favorite. You can find more of her work on Twitter @faulknercreek.




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