Swimming Up Stream While Being Pushed the Other Way – Trying to Stop Social Media or Smart Phone Use

A lot of businesses and firms are trying to block social media at work; or telling their employees they may not use their phones during the day.

Here’s a frank reality; this is all but impossible. Social media use is so prevalent, has become such a key part of many people’s lives, that efforts to block its use during the day will just result in employees trying to find a way around your policies. As far as smart phones, sure you can tell your staff not to use them during the day, but are they obeying your rules or simply hiding the phones? And what about during breaks or lunch?

There are a variety of reasons employers don’t want social media use occurring during the day. The most basic and obvious reason is that it can be a real time waster. The other reason I have heard to block social media use during the day is fear of how the employees will use it. I have heard everything from concerns about how the employee will write about the company, to worry the employee will use social media to search for a job. These are real concern, but banning use completely isn’t likely to be the solution.

Does it matter how people waste their time?

How much time employees spend on social media during the day comes down to whether employees are doing their jobs.  And whether the employees are wasting their time (and yours) on social media or gossip around the water cooler, your concern is that your employees spend the time for which you are paying doing what they are supposed to be doing; i.e. working. Your policies and your enforcement of this need to make this concern clear. Be sure you address time wasting in your training, your employee manual, and in your actions with your employees. If you are worried your employees are wasting time, deal with the issue. But don’t worry quite so much about what they are doing while they are wasting their time.

What people do on social media during the day

I have always been a bit confused by this whole, what employees do on social media during the day. If an employee posts something inappropriate about your company, does it matter if they did so during the lunch hour from their cell phone or from home at night? The reality is the employee posted something inappropriate and that is the concern. Again, the solution here is having an appropriate social media policy, not worrying when the information was posted.

Blocking social media use during the day can be problematic for employees that need access to social media. For attorneys social media can be a wonderful networking tool as well as a research tool. Not allowing those who research clients, the opposing side, witnesses, etc, to utilize social media is a mistake. The amount of evidence available via social media is immense and to ignore it might well be considered malpractice, if it isn’t now it will be eventually.

The searching for jobs concern was a new one to me and frankly I found it surprising. Stopping use of social media during the day won’t stop employees for using it to search for jobs. They will either use their smart phones or they will simply do the search at home. Blocking social media use at the office because of this particular concern is counter-intuitive to me. It certainly won’t stop a job search and might well be one of the reasons an employee feels he should leave a company.  Younger folks are simply used to communicating with their colleagues during the day and they might not understand why this ability is being blocked if they aren’t abusing the opportunity.


People use social media. With over 600 million people on Facebook and hundreds of millions on other popular sites, this is simply a fact. The solution to dealing with social media use is an appropriate social media policy on which all employees are trained (and which they sign off on.) A good policy is a better way to get a handle on what your employees are doing with social media not only from work, but in ways which can impact your company or firm. In addition to a policy and proper training, fair enforcement of the policy, along with job descriptions that make it clear who may utilize social media as part of their work and on behalf of the company or firm is absolutely key.

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