Embrace or deter social networking?

Concerned about the financial and reputational cost to business on the one hand and the need to respect the employees’ right to privacy on the other, Acas is recommending that companies develop policies for social networking use – controlling behaviour on internet & emails, smart phones, social network sites, blogging & tweeting.

Trying to control when and how people communicate at work is nothing new – just think back to the days when taking a personal ‘phone call during working time was forbidden (and indeed still is in some organisations).    But the underlying message here seems to be that employees shouldn’t be trusted not to ‘skive’ or ‘bad-mouth’ their employer.   Of course policies have their place in setting out expectations for behaviour but surely minimising the risk of time-wasting and derogatory comments could be better tackled by good management practises and positive working cultures?

So before you start drafting your policy, just take a few moments to consider that:

       happy, healthy and engaged individuals are more productive and say positive things about their employers.

       people who are rewarded for the work they do rather than the hours they are physically present are less likely to be prone to presenteeism (i.e. ‘here but not there’ due to illness or disengagement).

       people who have a ‘best friend’ at work are more likely to be part of high performing teams and be better at stress management (though this won’t apply if the manager is dictatorial, doesn’t set clear objectives or doesn’t recognise staff effort!); and strong relationships are vital to people’s health, happiness and even their productivity at work.

       the use of social networks could be embraced to reinforce positive behaviours such as sharing ideas and best practise, advising on resources, campaigning for help on projects, gathering expertise, building stronger bonds with colleagues and reaching out to others they don’t know well, keeping in touch with others, having a giggle and showing appreciation.

If you’d like to learn more about how to create a socially supportive work environment, where networking is apt rather than detrimental, contact gill@unisonmedia.co.uk

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