March 9, 2018

Don’t ban Facebook – manage it instead!

Scared off by the risk, one in five employers are blocking access to social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We think that’s a bad idea.


Recently, there have been horrific cases involving workplace social media abuse. However, the same companies denying staff access to social media, use the same platforms as an integral part of their marketing and sales strategies.

We think there are sound HR reasons to allow access, within the safety net of a robust social media policy.

The human resources reasons to allow social media

Before banning social media, there are four main HR factors that your business should consider:

  1. Employee engagement. Banning social media says that you don’t trust employees to do the right thing. Employees who don’t feel trusted are rarely motivated.
  2. Productivity. Everybody needs to take a break to stay productive at work. Whether that’s grabbing a coffee, popping over to a friend’s cubicle for a chat or quickly skimming their Insta feed. Everyone’s way of switching off is different and there’s no reason to single out one relaxation technique for a blanket ban. And let’s face it, if they want to post a selfie with their friends as they throw back their third macchiato for the day you’re not really going to be able to stop them!
  3.  Staff wellbeing. Checking in with family and friends from work has potential to boost an employee’s mood during the day and broaden their support network and we all know the benefits of a healthy, connected and supported workforce.
  4.  Growing the BD and talent pipeline. Employers are increasingly turning to social media as a business development and recruitment tool. More and more business is generated digitally, and there’s a pretty good chance that one of your Account Manager’s 1200 Facebook friends or 750 LinkedIn contacts might know someone just right for that tricky-to-fill position. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

The risks of allowing access to social media at work

Of course, using social media in the workplace is not risk free. So employers need to stay on the front foot to prevent these issues where possible.  Someone’s inappropriate social media use can too easily cause damage or loss. Potential damages can be as wide-ranging as:

  • bullying, harassment or discrimination claims
  • workplace Health & Safety claims
  • inappropriately using the business’s confidential information
  • breaching privacy, and
  • reputational damage.

Why a social media policy is the key to getting it right

The key to getting it right in your workplace is to set clear expectations and rules about how it should be used. You should also be upfront about the consequences for abusing the privilege of using social media.

Unfortunately, when it comes to working out where the parameters of acceptable use lie, there’s no one-size fits all approach. What’s appropriate depends on your workplace culture, the workers who are subject to the policy and the line of business you’re in.

After all, if things go wrong the courts have said that it’s no longer enough simply to have a generic policy in place. You need to be able to prove you’ve taken all reasonable steps to prevent potentially negative consequences.

If you’re uncertain of how to do this, we can help you tailor a policy that suits the exact needs of your business. We can also help train your staff and walk you through any sticky situations when they crop up.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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