To block, or not to block social media at work? That is the question many employers are grappling with as social media continues to weave itself into the fabric of the business world. However, more and more companies are choosing to block access.
In fact, as many as 36 percent of employers block social media at work — up from 29 percent in 2012. One in five companies block Facebook, while 15 percent shut out Twitter and nearly 14 percent have banned YouTube. Meanwhile, employers who allow free access to all social media sites have dwindled from 53 to 43 percent.
“The widespread use of social media has struck fear into some employers about decreased productivity, unwanted publicity, and a general increase in exposure for various work-related claims,” said employment law expert Daniel Handman.
Misuse of Social Media in the Workplace Puts Companies at Risk
When a photo of a Taco Bell employee licking taco shells made its way into the social media news stream, the fast food giant naturally took a lot of heat. For many employers, it was just one more example of the risks inherent in allowing social media on the job.
As social media use has risen, so has its abuse among employees. More than 70 percent of businesses have had to take disciplinary action against employees for misusing social media, and more than 80 percent of employers anticipate such problems with social media in the workplace will become an even bigger issue in the future.
“With a tap of a keyboard, many years of careful and expensive branding and marketing can be undermined,” says a 2014 report on social media in the workplace.
Employee misuse of social networking sites can have a potentially costly impact on business. Business leaders have expressed rising concerns about risks such as:
- Misuse of confidential information (80%)
- Misrepresenting the views of the business (71%)
- Inappropriate non-business use (67%)
- Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64%)
- Harassment (64%)
Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is that social media is wasting employees’ time.
Social Media is Linked to a Drop in Productivity
More than half of employees waste an hour or more at work every day, and social media has become their second-biggest time waster (after news sites). One-third of the U.S. workforce uses social media for at least an hour each workday.
Social media can also disrupt workflow. Nearly half of all employees get interrupted at least every 15 minutes, and almost 60 percent of these interruptions involve digital tools such as social networks or switching back and forth between windows.
On average, a single wasted hour each day can cost companies $10,375 in lost productivity per person each year — and for businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of interruptions can exceed $10 million per year.
“The very tools we rely on to do our jobs are also interfering with that mission. We’re clearly seeing what psychologists call ‘online compulsive disorder’ spillover from our personal lives to the work environment,” said Yaacov Cohen, co-founder and CEO of harmon.ie.
The Importance of a Social Media Workplace Policy and Training
Even if your company has decided to block social media access at work, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that employees will use social media in their personal lives. That’s why it’s essential your company has a detailed social media policy — even if you block access.
Additionally, your company should provide social media training to reinforce the guidelines set forth in the policy. This will help reduce your risk.
For example, your company is launching a new product. The marketing team is finalizing a social media campaign around the launch with messaging approved by the CEO. But before that happens, an excited employee takes to Twitter on their lunch break to post about the product and unknowingly gives away details that the CEO wanted to keep confidential.
There goes all the hard work the marketing team has done, and you’re now scrambling to cover for the employee’s mistake. If you had specific rules for social media in the workplace, a policy, and social media training, the employee would have known not to Tweet about product launches.
Many companies are choosing to block social media access at work because they fear employee misuse as well as the resulting drop in productivity. However, even if your company does decide to block access at work, you still need a comprehensive social media policy and business ethics training to help reinforce the policy’s message.