The impact of social media in the workplace

man using social media in the workplace

Social media in the workplace can help employees to bond by finding similar interests or hobbies from what employees post on their platforms. Unfortunately, occasionally how an employee presents themselves on social media may not align with the business values or company culture.

Issues around social media in the workplace are becoming more prevalent and we have seen an increase in enquiries which include situations where employees have posted controversial content, where the company’s name is linked to the employee in question’s personal account.

How to manage social media in the workplace?

A social media policy can be developed for inclusion in an employee handbook, which states the business’ stance on social media in the workplace. This should not be solely based on the usage of social media during working hours. On average those who are active on social media in the UK spend 2 hours and 36 minutes on social channels such as LinkedIn, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube videos.  Safe to say employees are using social media in the workplace.

However, companies need to protect themselves when employees posts content on social media which could be deemed inappropriate by the company. As with everything the company needs to ensure they are not discriminating against any of the protected characteristics when dealing with opinions shared on social media, for example, the person’s religious beliefs.

Whilst employee advocacy on social media channels can help to promote the company, some employers may take the stance of ensuring personal life and company life remain separate. This helps decrease the potential impact of social media posts damaging the company’s reputation.

What is a social media policy in the workplace?

A social media policy can detail what the employer deems to be an appropriate manner for employees to conduct or portray themselves on social media channels. The rationale is to reduce the likelihood of employees damaging the company’s reputation.

A well-drafted and structured social media policy can help to remove the risks associated with social media in the workplace. Employers and managers should incorporate the company’s social media policy into the induction process. The expectations of the employee posting online alongside the company’s dos and don’ts of posting on social media should be outlined. The company may then use this as a training tool going forward.


Using social media in the workplace

Within the overall social media policy, incorporating the company’s expectation on using social media in the workplace is required. It should outline if employees are permitted to use social media in the workplace or not. Companies can also include stipulations for using social media in the workplace, such as keeping usage to a minimum or restricting usage to outside of normal working hours i.e., lunchtimes, breaks, before and after work.

Other conditions include the usage that mustn’t interfere with job requirements or commitments and usage that complies with other workplace policies including bullying and harassment, Data protection policy, and the company’s disciplinary procedure.

Employers also need to be aware of BeReal a current trending app with Gen Z, where images only last 24 hours but users are able to capture images of their laptop screens which may create a breach in confidentiality.

How to manage misuse of social media in the workplace  

If an issue of misuse of social media has been reported, managers will need to commence a full investigation.  The employee should be invited to an investigation meeting to discuss the alleged inappropriate conduct and the manager will gather all other evidence.

Gathering evidence to support the report of misuse is critical, for example, if the reports are based on what the employee has posted online, screenshots of the posts will be required. Other evidence regarding the overuse of social media during normal working hours may include witness statements.

Having completed the investigation, the manager will then determine the need to progress to a disciplinary hearing.

Inviting the person to an investigation meeting to discuss the report or highlight the inappropriate conduct online in the first instance, the manager will need to discuss the possibility of disciplinary.

Managers and employers will need to establish the seriousness of the misuse of social media in relation to their social media policy and procedure. The employee handbook will indicate the seriousness of the misuse, many companies will include ‘improper use of the internet or email facilities’ within gross misconduct, meaning the employee may be liable to dismissal if proven guilty.

Check out our free downloadable guide on conducting a disciplinary investigation, detailing how to follow the correct process for investigations in the workplace.

Examples of inappropriate use of social media

Trolling or harassment online

Posting of negative comments may be deemed as trolling/bullying, and other employee’s or customers/clients could see these comments which may impact both on company culture and client relationships. In addition to this, many professionals have LinkedIn profiles which mean they could locate the person who posted negative comments works – leading to reports of trolling or harassment online.

Confidentially breach  

A breach of confidentially can occur when an employee shares information such as the company’s finances, client lists, or employees’ personal information on social media. There may be a breach if an employee shares a picture of their laptop screen which has open documentation on social channels such as Instagram stories.

Making discriminative comments

If employees post opinions that are found to be discriminatory and involve any of the protected characteristics, including race, disability, or religious beliefs this may be deemed as gross misconduct leading to dismissal. When claims of this nature have been made, strong evidence of misconduct is required i.e. screenshots or screen recordings of the posts in question.

Sharing of opinions which may be damage a company’s reputation

If an employee posts opinions online about a company, another employee, or a client in a negative manner this may impact on the company’s reputation. If negative opinions are shared online, when a company is going through a recruitment campaign it may lead to a potential candidate withdrawing or not applying for the job.

If an employee posts negative comments about a customer or client online, this may damage the relationship between the company and their client/customer, who may opt to not use the company’s services or products moving forward.

Posting comments either directly or indirectly about another employee creates a hostile working environment and has a lasting effect on the employee and company culture.

What are the advantages of social media in the workplace?

Social media in the workplace can also have a positive impact, check out the examples below;

Showing staff appreciation and retention

Recognising employees’ work on social media helps them to feel valued and appreciated. Other ways to show appreciation include posting about employee achievements and work anniversaries.

Improving workplace relationship

Employees are able to communicate more freely with co-workers and social media communication can go a long way to enable collaboration across departments.

Helping to grow employer branding

Positive posting can aid in recruitment campaigns, by helping to highlight the company’s good culture as being inclusive and diverse. Candidates are more likely to apply for jobs if the company presents a positive presence online, assisting companies to beat the current war for talent.

Professional networking

Employees can engage in conversations with other business owners through posts or insights shared, which is good news for B2B companies helping to boost brand awareness. These connections could lead to new client signs up or referrals.

How we can help your business manage social media issues in the workplace

Our team of HR consultants will begin by reviewing your employee handbook to establish the businesses expectations and workplace policies for employee conduct on social media.                                                                                                          

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