Last summer I wrote my first blog ever regarding “Use of social media by employees – is this good or bad for the employer?” I concluded my short article by stating that “this is mainly a philosophical debate with no clear answer” and observed that “as in each minute millions of posts, tweets and photos are published (including by your employees), a better use of our time is not to debate this, but rather educate ourselves and our employees about this use“.

 Well, I hope you all followed my advice, began the education sessions and implemented social media policies in your workplaces during this passing year. If not – do it now, better late than never.

 This hectic summer in Israel has, with no doubt, demonstrated the importance of educating our employees and setting guiding rules about social media use and its implications. Again, I am not recommending prohibiting our employees from social use activities (it is a lost cause, anyhow) but rather educating ourselves and our employees, explaining the boundaries of such use and its implications.

 In these complex and thought provoking times in Israel, each individual has his/her own opinions about the situation and about the solutions and many choose to share such views and suggestions with their friends, their friends’ friends and even with the entire public. The individuals expressing their views, are invariably someone’s employees and quite a few employers during the summer have felt some unease regarding their employees’ social media activities. On many occasions, complaints were even filed by the employees’ peers or even their clients.

 Indeed, as many lawyers and organizations have published in the last weeks – termination of employment of an employee due to expressing his/her own views in the social media is, in most cases, unlawful. However, I am not going to discuss this overly discussed aspect in my short blog.

 My aim is to again emphasize the importance of social media policies in the workplaces, which set rules of guidance for the use of social media use by employees.

For example:

  • Employees should be aware of the implications of their having large number of “friends”, which may include clients, managers and colleagues. They may decide afterwards to limit their list of “friends” in order to avoid unnecessary implications or to be more cautious about their postings.
  • Employees should be aware that if they disclose their workplace (by filling in the workplace section, for example) they should specifically state that the views are their own and that they represent no one. The employer can instruct, for example, that the office-email account should not be used in social media profiles but rather only a personal email account.
  • Employees should be reminded that confidentiality obligations apply also for social media use and that they should not share confidential information even for social media activities.

Different from last year, I am sure I no longer need to convince anyone that social media use by employees is inevitable. I do hope, however, that you now agree that by educating all users by setting known and reasonable boundaries in the format of a policy– any such use by your employees can often be smarter and more sensitive to the interests of us all.