Social media habits at work

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Q:  My daughter is glued to her social media.  I am worried, that when she finds her new post-college role, she will have her phone in her hand constantly.  I hear about Instagram and Snapchat most often. I have some social media accounts, but I would never access these platforms while at work.  Can you offer some guidelines on what is appropriate in the workplace (and what is not)?

A: This is an area of growing concern among employers.  Most people access these sites by their phones, but some still will use a desktop PC or a laptop.  If it is a company-issued device, an employer can review the sites and the activity level.  Many of our clients monitor their employees’ access to such sites.  Employees should not assume that communications using an employer’s computer or email system is confidential.  Much, if not all, of this information can be tracked.

Some employers are now implementing social media policies in their employee handbooks.  In these policies specific guidelines are defined for employees regarding the employer’s expectations around social media usage and access.

Although it seems like I am stating the obvious, employers are paying employees to work during the work day.  All of us who work will need to occasionally make a personal call about a car repair, a changed venue for dinner or to learn about results from a lab test.  During work time, these calls and texts should be brief, to the point and limited.  Unless it is part of an employee’s job, accessing social media sites should be limited or non-existent much like making personal telephone calls or sending text messages.  Some employers permit employees to access these sites during breaks.  Some do not permit access at all.

Both job seekers and employees should take care in what is posted on social media sites.  Several years ago, we had a client contact me about an employee who was posting negative comments about her job, on a social media site.  The client wasn’t pleased about the negative PR, particularly since many of her Facebook friends were also coworkers.  This client was also surprised that this employee has so much free time on her hands since the comments were posted during the work day.

More and more of my clients are reviewing Facebook and other sites when they become serious about a candidate.  Candidates should use the privacy controls available and/or remove inappropriate or controversial materials from their personal pages.

I would suggest all employees access any personal sites during non-work hours.  There are some roles which require access to social media sites (digital marketing roles) but these roles are the exception, not the norm.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.