Many organizations—some maybe more begrudgingly than others—have accepted that employees are going to spend company time using social media for non-work purposes.
New York-based law firm Proskauer’s “Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0” study just offers further confirmation of that fact.
The firm’s global survey recently polled more than 110 multinational businesses from countries including Argentina, Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States, with 43 percent of organizations reporting they allow all employees to use social media for non-business activities. Another 26 percent said they permit some workers to use social media for personal purposes.
The survey also found, however, that 71 percent of those employers have had to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse of social media. That figure stood at 35 percent when Proskauer conducted a similar survey in 2012.
What sort of infractions are employees being chastised for? A Proskauer press release summarizing key survey findings highlights some of the most common ways workers abuse social media, such as:
• Misuse of confidential information (80 percent),
• Misrepresenting the views of the business (71 percent),
• Inappropriate non-business use (67 percent),
• Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64 percent), and
• Harassment (64 percent).
“We think the spike [in such behavior] correlates with the growth in social media use for business purposes,” says Daniel Ornstein, the London-based co-head of Proskauer’s international labor and employment law group, and lead author of the 2014 study.
“This has two consequences,” he says. “Most obviously, the more people use social media for business, the more likely it is that there will be inappropriate conduct. In addition, the [more] social media [is used] at work, the more the boundaries between work and personal blur. This blurring puts people off their guard, and increases the chances of inappropriate conduct at work.”
Employers seem to be taking greater notice of the increasingly fuzzy line between work and play. The number of companies reporting they have policies governing social media use jumped from 60 percent in 2012 to 79 percent this year, and more than half of the organizations with policies said they have updated them within the last year.
In its survey report, Proskauer offers suggestions for guarding against inappropriate use of social media, such as conducting annual audits, providing thorough employee training, identifying specific risks, and implementing clear guidelines that include provisions designed to prevent social media misuse by ex-employees as well as current ones.
For HR professionals, “the most important action is to get business buy-in for rolling out such policies and training that address the matter,” says Ornstein, “both generally and with regard to the specific risks their business faces.”