Social media at work – Is it ethical to log in when you’re on the clock?

social media, workplace, ethics, FacebookI check my Facebook account about a million times a day, so it’s not surprising to me that 72 percent of social media users that the National Business Ethics Survey polled, say they log into their social networks while they’re at work. Twenty-eight percent of the 72 percent said they spend an hour or more on social networks while they’re on the clock. One third of those people admitted that their social activity isn’t work related. Clearly, employers have their hands full with social media.

Several of the places that I have worked have handled the distraction of social media by blocking the sites on company computers. That was a pretty effective tactic until the invention of smart phones. They proceeded to tell employees they weren’t allowed to be on their personal phones, but I’ll admit that on lunch breaks or when there was a lull in the action I used my iPhone to check out what was happening on my Facebook or Instagram pages. Luckily now that I’m working in social media, I don’t have to try and hide my social media use!

It was pretty well known at one of my previous jobs that the employers were checking employees’ browser histories to see what websites they were spending time on. Is that invasive? Yes. Is it unethical? No. They’re paying you to do a job for them and I’m guessing your job description doesn’t include scrolling through the Facebook album of your friend’s baby shower! Not only are they paying you to get work done, the computer you work on belongs to them. They have the right to make sure that you’re using their property for the right reasons.

If you’re a manager or business owner, it’s important to have some type of social media policy in place. Be transparent with your employees and let them know what is and isn’t acceptable. Your policy should address social media use on and off the clock. You want your business to be well represented beyond the hours of nine and five. It’s expected that employees will have a life outside of the job, but remind them to think before they post on social media accounts because they represent the company.

Instead of viewing social media as a distraction, use it to your advantage. Set up a social media page regarding your social media policy. When employees have a question, they’ll know where to look. They’re much more likely to read it on the social sites where they’re already spending time, as opposed to a bulky packet (don’t kid yourself, they won’t read it!).

While it’s important to set clear guidelines, don’t make rules so strict that employees are afraid to spend time on social networks. Employees are great brand advocates. Think about how far your content could reach if your employees were sharing it with their network of friends. Encourage employees to follow and engage with the brand on social sites, and really use social media as an asset.