Could social media use amongst staff be costing your business money?

social media

Social media is here to stay but should it be part of a day’s work?

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, the list is endless and estimates show that Facebook alone has 1.44 billion monthly active users and that over half of users log on every day.

Social media can be a great asset for businesses, helping to share good news, promote products, events and a whole host of other things but how your staff interact with social media whilst at work can cause issues.

Many employers don’t have clear guidelines on social media use but with the millennium generation, who have been swiping smartphones since they could walk, starting to enter the workplace, employers might be advised to think seriously about some guidance.

Loss of productivity

This is a major source of frustration for many employers. Overall, social media use at work is overlooked and difficult to gauge given the increasing use of private phones in the workplace. There is no doubt many millions of employees paid hours are lost to this each year.

Damage to business reputation

With an audience of millions, casual conversation amongst staff about work or colleagues via social media can have serious and far reaching implications with real potential to cause reputational damage.


Employers can be held responsible for discriminatory comments made by staff on social networks. This can extend to comments made out of hours and on private devices. Employment tribunals can award uncapped damages to successful claimants.

Loss of confidential information

Platforms such as LinkenIn can (unintentionally) encourage employees to post what could be highly sensitive business information online.

So, with most people now having smartphones, how can employers possibly manage and mitigate these risks? The answer is to have clear contractual terms and policies to prevent misuse.

Develop clear guidelines

This is the first step. If you are an employer decide what you think is most suitable for your business – an outright ban is likely to build resentment and could be difficult to enforce. Most employers allow for some private use but it’s essential to have guidelines which clarify exactly what this means and that it’s regularly communicated to staff.

Monitor use

If you have guidelines in place, you need to make sure staff are adhering to them. The only way you can manage this is by monitoring the use of private devices and social media use. You must ensure you inform staff that you will monitor their use of social media and you must act in accordance with Data Protection Act guidelines.

Take disciplinary action

Ultimately you may need to discipline employees, even dismissing staff for breaching your social media guidelines. In these circumstances, it’s vital you follow the correct process before you take any action.

Post termination restrictions

Social media can often result in your staff being easily targeted by your competitors. A useful deterrent is to ensure that employees have signed well drafted and enforceable restrictive covenants.

If you feel your company could be exposed to some of these issues, then it would be wise to implement some of the steps listed above to minimize the risks. Ensure your employees have clear guidelines about what is and isn’t deemed acceptable and if in doubt seek legal advice.

Sally Togher, Senior Associate at Raworths Solicitors