Social Media in the Workplace

Joshua Easton HR/IR


Most workplaces today have access to the internet in some form, and in many workplaces, employees spend the majority of their working day on computers, tablets or phones.

With such easy online access, many tasks previously performed in the office can now be performed at any location.

This increased easy access to the internet for some workplaces has resulted in more employees working from home and spending less time in the office, which reduces commuting time and if managed properly can increase productivity.

Most office tasks can now be performed electronically and paperwork, although still important is gradually being phased out.

These efficiencies come with some risk that needs to be evaluated and mitigated in line with all other potential risk.

It is important to have in place practical and efficient policies and procedures that are tailored to your workplace and cover:

  • Information Technology (I.T.), monitoring software and employer’s rights to monitor workplace communications
  • Use of internet and internal messaging services
  • Use of computers, mobile phones, laptops and other internet capable devices in the workplace
  • Working from home
  • Social media

These policies should be reviewed at least annually and kept up to date with technological advances.

Employees should then be advised of any updates to the policy and reminded that they must adhere to the policies and procedures implemented by the company.

Whereas desktop computers were once the main office tool, in today’s world online access can be obtained from laptop computers, tablets (such as the iPad), smartphones and now increasingly from smartwatches worn on the wrist.

With the proliferation of technology comes the opportunity for misuse of this technology in the following forms:

  • Pornography in the workplace that can leave both the company and individuals liable for action against them.
  • Increased time spent on personal matters, answering emails, organising events, searching for services, shopping etc on work and personal devices.
  • Social media, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc.

To prevent employees from spending unauthorised and/or unproductive time online while at work, or from placing the organisation at risk of legal action for social media content, the policies must clearly identify who is authorised to post company related material online (if at all), what the parameters
of that content may be and the penalties for breaching these policies.

Recent decisions in the Court system have found that liability for online comments may be actionable against the employer and although in the latest case (Voller vs The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Sky News and The Centralian, appeals will be ongoing, this will no doubt be an expensive and prolonged matter for the parties involved, and an action to avoid where possible for employers.

Where employees are working from home it is important to understand the associated workplace health and safety risks of the home and the area that the work will performed in as well as the insurance and worker’s compensation risks and coverage.

It is also important to clearly agree with the employee working from home what duties they are required to perform, when they are required to perform them and where they are covered by insurance and any KPI’s that may apply.

For example, if your employee is performing data entry or some other relatively simple task, and instead of working from their home go to the beach and perform the task and are injured in an accident, the issues of what is a compensable injury and whether worker’s compensation applies may become a complex legal matter and the determination may rest on the agreement between the parties and the policies and procedures in place.

While technology and improved devices are in many ways making business more streamlined and efficient, the matters outlined in this article provide some direction to maximise output and minimise risk for all concerned.

Please note that this is general advice for information only and any application of legislation and/or Industrial Relations or contractual requirements may require professional advice to suit your individual circumstances.

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