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Posted on 12 December 2019

Should employees be allowed to use social media at work?

5 minute read

While social media has been undeniably invaluable when it comes to specific modern business applications, most business owners still consider it a dirty word. Being able to talk directly to consumers might be fantastic for your profits, but paying employees to browse social media at work isn’t exactly going to impress.

Whether employees are moaning to their mates or posting pictures of their packed lunches, social networking sites can eat up untold amounts of work time, and leave your company struggling as a result. This is why countless employers spend hours banning certain sites or restricting personal use.

As social media comes ever more to the fore though, managers are left with a difficult decision: should employees be allowed to use social media at work after all? This debate is rife with ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes,’ making it difficult to know whether a no-tolerance policy is best. To help you decide, we’re going to break down the whys and what-fors of whether you could benefit from allowing employees to use social media at work.

Social media cons you can’t ignore

Before you delve into whether social media should be allowed in your workplace, it’s worth refreshing yourself on why you banned it in the first place. The more time that passes without employees logging onto the dreaded bluebird, after all, the more you may forget what you hated about it in the first place.

Lost productivity
A survey from 2012 revealed that widespread social media usage could result in up to 390 wasted working hours a year. That’s an average of nine working weeks, all because you allowed employees to use social media. The lost profits don’t even bear thinking about.

Increased security risks
Cybersecurity is always a pressing business concern, with data breaches costing in everything from downtime to legal fines, and even reputational damage. Worryingly though, around 20% of the links on any Facebook feed contain viruses. Worse, employees walking into these traps could leave your virus protection software void. Like it or not, then, changing your policy could mean letting more than just social networking sites back into your business.

Reputational damage
When you post on your business socials, you probably spell check, edit, and guarantee political correctness. Sadly, you can’t ensure the same if employees are posting online during the working day. A poorly-worded update, or the use of social media when a client is waiting on a service, is guaranteed to harm your company’s reputation in a significant way.

The plus points that put social media up for discussion

With those cons in mind, you may be wondering why you would ever waiver on your social media policy. In reality, though, social media usage done right does also offers workplace benefits. In the name of fairness, it’s vital that you also consider these:

Improved collaboration
Business-based social platforms have proven invaluable for improving collaboration within businesses. In fact, 82% of employees believe that social websites could improve working relationships. That’s an impressive percentage, and one that any manager dealing with different departments will want to consider.

Increased morale/engagement
No employee likes to feel that their employer doesn’t trust them, and a total social ban does suggest a certain hesitation on your part. This can damage employee morale like little else and may see your workplace flatter than a pancake in no time. If that happens, productivity could be set to suffer regardless.

Personal development
While you might not initially think so, social media offers personal development. Sites like LinkedIn, for instance, provide endless articles that could both inspire and improve employee skill sets. Twitter, too, can lead to business connections and followings that could provide development employees would struggle to harness elsewhere. That’s sure to help your company’s bottom line in the long-run, and it needn’t cost you a penny.

So, should social media be banned in the workplace?

With the above in mind, it’s easy to see that this isn’t a cut and dry issue. While employers may still be unsure about instigating business-wide social media use, there’s no denying the benefits that well-planned social networking sites could bring to the modern workplace. But how exactly can you implement those advantages without compromising on company culture?

Perhaps the best option here is to redefine the social platforms you consider for workplace implementation. While Twitter and Instagram are notorious for lost productivity, companies are now recognising the need for more business-focused networking platforms, and these, rather than general social media, could bring the benefits mentioned directly to your door.

Use dedicated social platforms to increase employee engagement
Whether you work within a retail or office setting, allowing mobile and computer access to the best business-specific employee engagement apps and networks comes complete with advantages like workplace recognition, improved inter-business connections, and even widespread morale. As well as connecting members of different teams, integrations like these allow you to share company updates and more from one secure place.

Bear in mind that, to ensure success with free usage in this area, you will want to consider the different employee engagement options available and the benefits each stands to bring. Facebook Workplace and Yammer, for example, both have the downsides of private chat functions that could still result in unnecessary lost productivity or even workplace bullying.

By comparison, platforms created with employee recognition and relationships in mind provide open social spaces that everyone can access and enjoy without falling down the ‘social pit’ you’re afraid of. Many of these apps even allow you to celebrate employees’ successes on a social timeline, making them feel valued. Just like that, your employees should feel happier and more appreciated to boot, with a much less restrictive social platform policy behind them.

The smart way around social media bans

No one’s saying that you should entirely lift workplace bans on certain websites. Still, redefining what your ban entails is guaranteed to be useful for helping employees thrive in the modern market.

Far from leading to endless desk-based selfies, integrating employee engagement platforms into your working days can lead to office-wide smiles and increased engagement that provides a much-needed boost to your profits and productivity.