Yay or Nay: Using Personal Social Media at Work

Should employers allow workers to access personal social media while on the job?  With the preponderance of sites and users, the situation is a dilemma that organizations must face whether they like it or not.

It’s no secret that employees use their social media accounts at work. In 2014, the Pew Research Center found the practice to be common, with reasons for accessing accounts ranging from taking a break to connecting with friends or family or to learn more about colleagues. Pew recently reported that about 75 percent of Facebook users and 60 percent of Instagram users log into their accounts at least once a day, making accessing personal social media during worktime almost inevitable.

However, when employees use personal social media, employers find themselves in a fix. On the one hand, organizations have come to realize that social media is part of their branding, and many companies happily accept their employees using personal accounts to talk about the organization’s brand or to reach out to new customers. On the other hand, those same organizations cringe when employees use their personal social media accounts to discuss potentially damaging information related to the employer—or when employees use company time to post on their social media accounts for non-work-related matters. After all, why would any organization want to pay its workers for “liking” a friend’s latest new baby photos or snaps of a recent meal?

Why indeed. Some experts claim these breaks from work that allow employees check in on their outside lives gives them a sense of pleasure, and happy employees stay in jobs longer. When a worker takes ten minutes to catch up on personal social media, it’s the equivalent of a dashing out for a latte, they say, noting that posting or commenting are also far healthier work breaks than going outside to smoke a cigarette (healthier employees cost employers less, too!).The risk, these experts say, of losing valued employees by denying them this outlet is greater than the risk of creating a restrictive workplace.

Others, however, see more dangerous implications. They claim that allowing employees to engage with private social media sets up an employer for security and privacy risks: When an employee uses a personal Facebook account, doing so opens the door to a data breach and opportunities for competitors to extract confidential information. These naysayers advocate that all social media be controlled through a dedicated marketing function.

What do you think?

Discussion

  1. What are some possible benefits to employers when employees discuss the company’s brand on personal social media accounts rather than on company-regulated social media?
  2. Why should or shouldn’t employers allow workers to use personal social media to shop or chat during work time?
  3. How closely should organizations scrutinize their employees’ personal social media?

From the Wall Street Journal

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