With the European Courts of Human Rights recently ruling that an organisation that read a worker's personal messages sent while he was at work was within its rights, I felt compelled to provide some guidance and warn businesses against ‘snooping’ on staff.
Romanian engineer, Bogdan Bărbulescu, was dismissed for using his Yahoo Messenger email account – created for work purposes at his company's request – to send personal emails during working hours.
He claimed that his employer had violated his right to correspondence and was in breach of the Constitution and Criminal Code by accessing his communications. However, his complaint was dismissed on grounds that his employer had complied with dismissal proceedings and the complainant had been informed of company regulations.
Bărbulescu appealed, claiming his e-mails were protected by Article 8 – the right to respect for private and family life, the home and correspondence. The Court of Appeal held that the employer’s conduct had been reasonable and that monitoring had been the only way to establish whether a disciplinary breach had occurred.
Now, social media is huge, everyone is using it one way or another and with more and more people having mobile devices, managing it in the workplace is becoming increasingly difficult. So it's no surprise that the distinction between professional and personal use can be blurry. Here are some best practices to ensure that employees use these sites appropriately and limit their personal use during working hours.
- Write a clear policy for employees after getting their input. Keep a positive tone and avoid focusing on disciplinary action for misconduct. Your ultimate goal is to build a sense of trust with your team.
- Personal use of social media tools on company time shouldn't be prohibited, but employees should be encouraged to limit it in the same way they restrict their personal telephone calls or Internet use. Company time is for company business.
- Encourage your team members to think before they post. They should be especially cautious about revealing confidential or proprietary information about your organization or engaging in discussions that could tarnish their image or that of your company.
- If your employees are sharing links with business colleagues, they should be sure that the sites are reputable and reflect well on your company. The same advice applies to employees joining online groups.
- Revealing personal information online, through means such as blogging, makes your company more susceptible to spam, pranks and identity thieves. Remind your employees that sites such as Facebook and Twitter have privacy settings that limit who can read postings and access personal information. However, this information does remain in the public domain.
- Ask your employees to get permission from your clients or partners before publishing their names on sites. As well, they should respect copyrights and give credit to any organization whose material they use.
- If your employees are blogging about your organisation, it's important that they disclose their identity, are transparent about their role in your company and stick to their area of expertise. After all, they are representing your business.
- Journalists are increasingly using online sources to find information. If your employees are approached by the media while online, be sure they notify the appropriate person in your company before answering media inquiries.
To help you on your way, click on the Special Offers page for your FREE Policy for Social Media In The Workplace