Social media use has experienced an explosion in popularity in recent years. With the advent of smartphones that can access the Internet, email and just about everything in between, many employees can access work files from home or other places. This fact has caused the once sharply demarcated line between personal life and work to become blurred. Just as employees may feel compelled to finish up a work project at home, they also feel compelled to check on personal social media and email accounts at work. Employers feel this is wasting time on the company dime — so to speak. They struggle with creating policy around personal Internet use and its implications.
Restricting Access is Not a Good Plan
Completely restricting employee access to the Internet via server settings is not a good policy. It will only serve to foster resentment among employees about company policy. Employees need to feel trusted and valued. Often times, their connections on LinkedIn or Facebook are business related acquaintances. These acquaintances can be used by employees to build strong relationships that may be helpful in future revenue producing endeavors. Accessing social media profiles and personal email on occasion at work can actually increase productivity if used in collaboration to gather work related information and advice.
Create a Clear Personal Internet Policy
Create a clear personal Internet policy and train employees, both old and new, on what is permissible Web use. Open communication with employees is key to fostering trust and personal responsibility. One company has a policy that actually encourages employees to check their accounts up to three times per day. The thinking is that these short breaks are analogous to chatting around the water cooler or coffee pot in the break room. This open access policy, like any other policy, can (and most likely will) be abused by some employees. However, the employees that abuse this policy are the same ones stealing from the supply closet and taking cat naps in the car when supposed to be on a sales call. Choosing workers carefully in the first place will alleviate this risk profoundly.
Review Legalities with Employees
If your company is one that is highly regulated, exposure to litigation may be of concern. For example, a small brokerage firm may need to review law and policy about financial disclosure and confidentiality with employees when training them on permissible Web use. Businesses associated with the health care industry are especially at risk with patient confidentiality being of paramount concern. Tell your employees that you trust them with open access to the Internet, but that any breach of confidentiality is cause for immediate termination.
Copy the Big Guys
Many large corporations publicly post their social media policies online and take no issue with other companies using their guidelines as a template. IBM, Hewlett-Packard and many other well-known companies have policies that are easily pared down and tailored for use in very small businesses.