Are your managers concerned employees are wasting too much time on Facebook and Twitter? Well, they might have something bigger to worry about.
The popularity of social-networking sites is growing more rapidly than ever. According to the latest figures, about half of adults have a Facebook and/or Myspace account, and the number of Twitter users has grown by 1,300% in the past year.
So odds are a good amount of people in your company are logging on to those sites fairly often. Though some employees probably waste part of the work day checking their accounts, most experts say those situations should be dealt with like any other performance problem — on a case-by-case basis.
The real problem, they warn, is the potential damage to the company’s reputation and its bottom line.
According to a recent Deloitte survey, 74% of workers admitted that social networking sites make it “easier” to hurt an employer’s reputation. That’s a fact several companies already know. For example:
- Last year, British Airways fired a group of employees who used Facebook to call the airline’s passengers “fat and smelly”
- A Pennsylvania high school recently fired a teacher for, among other things, bragging about her alcohol use on Myspace. She sued for freedom of speech, but her case was tossed because she had no right to speech that made the school look bad.
To keep the risk at bay, attorney Keisha-Ann Gray, writing in Human Resource Executive, recommends drafting a policy that:
- Reminds employees they have no expectation of privacy when they use the Internet at work
- Prohibits employees from using the Web in any way that’s contrary to the company’s interests, whether done at work or at home, and
- Establishes that other company policies (anti-harassment, confidentiality, etc.) apply to what employees do online.
What you can’t do
Some states have laws that can limit the reach of a company’s social networking policy. For example, states like New York, Colorado and North Dakota have laws prohibiting companies from firing employees for legal activities they partake in outside of work.
However, most of laws make an exception when the employer is directly affected by the employee’s actions. Check your state laws to be safe before drafting a policy.