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Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3375

Social media

The impact of social media on the workplace is increasing. Social media is the broad term for internet-based tools used on PCs, laptops, tablets and smart phones to help people make contact, keep in touch and interact.

This trend can affect communications among managers, employees and job applicants, how organisations promote and control their reputation, and how colleagues treat one another. It can also distort what boundaries there are between home and work.

Key Points

  • Develop a policy: Employers should include what is and what is not acceptable for general behaviour in the use at work of the internet, emails, smart phones and social media, such as networking websites, blogs and tweets. However, it might prove impractical to have an overly formal policy that also includes rigidly covering the use of social media in recruitment.
  • Rules for recruitment: While a rigid policy on using social media in recruitment could soon become obsolete, because the trend is changing and developing so quickly, it is still advisable for an employer to have at least some rules, or procedures, which managers and employees should follow. 
  • Screening job candidates: In particular when recruiting, employers should be careful if assessing applicants by looking at their social networking pages - this can be discriminatory and unfair. 
  • Who can see your profile? Employees should regularly check the privacy settings on their social networking pages, as they can change. Also, they should consider whether they want or need co-workers to see those profiles. 
  • Talk to your staff: Employers should inform and consult with their employees if planning to monitor social media activity affecting the workplace. 
  • Update other policies: For example, an organisation's policy on bullying should include references to 'cyber bullying'. 
  • Be sensitive: Employers should promote a work-life balance - the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred by the use of modern technology.

Smart phones, the internet, tweeting and blogging - we have accepted all of these innovations, and many more, as part of our working lives, helping us to work more flexibly, stay in touch for longer and respond to each other quicker.

But is it all good news? Some estimates report that misuse of the internet and social media by workers costs Britain's economy billions of pounds every year and add that many employers are already grappling with issues like time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy.

Acas Senior Policy Advisor Adrian Wakeling talks about social media in the workplace.

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