A couple of weeks ago I talked about my tips for a professional online profile, which I hope you found helpful. Now you’re settling into your workplace, are you tempted to use social media? Surely you’d expect that it would be banned by your employer? Surprisingly, research has shown that only 51% of employees report being aware of such a policy, and 77% use social media at work regardless (Olmstead et al. 2016). Therefore, at least some are ignoring their employer’s policies, creating an ethical debate around the use of social media in the workplace.
Take a look at this comical take on the problems caused by social media in the workplace (haveisharedtoomuch 2011)
ACAS, the UK’s employment disputes body suggest several ways in which employers can mitigate these new workplace concerns (ACAS n.d.). They state the policies are important, although as shown above these are not particularly widespread. Also, they emphasise the need for improved communication between parties regarding social media. Finally, it’s important that your other policies, such as those covering ‘cyber bullying’, are also up to date.
But what about the employee perspective? Spherion found that 30% of workers think that social media improves their job satisfaction and 39% that it enhances their productivity (Spherion 2015). Therefore, there is a group of workers who think, albeit subjectively, that their work lives are enhanced by social media. This is likely to be younger workers, as Olmstead et al. found that they were more likely to use social media at work. Interestingly, this seems to vary by employment sector. Starkly, Moran et al. (2011) found that 91% of academics surveyed had used social media professionally. Therefore it seems that a distinction should be made between social media for work, and personally using it in work time.
In recent years work, especially in white collar industries, is increasingly not a physical ‘place’. For many people, work is increasingly an activity that is completed in a range of spaces, whether that is the home, coffee shop etc. (see Felstead et al. 2005). The lines between home and work are increasingly ‘blurred’ (Abril et al. 2012). These people tend to be more independent, but can they be trusted to use social media effectively? Therefore, a dimension of this debate should be the extent that an employer’s policy can control employees in a complex employment picture.
I hope this short post has enlightened somewhat the debate around workplace social media. There are even more factors, such as employment screening (see Riley 2014 for more on this), that further complicate the issues. However, whether employer or employee, social media is changing workplace relationships.
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Abril et al. 2012 “Blurred Boundaries: Social Media Privacy and the Twenty-First-Century Employee” https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Patricia_Abril/publication/228311105_Blurred_Boundaries_Social_Media_Privacy_and_the_Twenty-First-Century_Employee/links/53d7ad290cf2e38c632dde93.pdf
ACAS n.d. ”Help & advice for employers and employees – Social media” http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3375
Felstead et al. 2005 “The shifting locations of work” http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0950017005053186
haveisharedtoomuch 2011 “Have I Shared Too Much?” video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoGADb_imtc
Moran et al. 2011 “Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media” http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED535130.pdf
Olmstead et al. 2016 “Social Media and the Workplace” Pew Internet Research http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/06/22/social-media-and-the-workplace/
Riley 2014 “Social media screening – is it ethical?” http://www.hrzone.com/talent/acquisition/social-media-screening-is-it-ethical
Spherion 2015 “The Emerging Workforce Study” http://www.spherion.com/ews/