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Be Clear On Employee Technology And Social Media Use Policies

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Mar 30, 2018 8:35:15 AM
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Numbers of surveys confirm that social media and technology use among employees leads to a loss of productivity. But, more importantly, legal and security concerns are on the rise because of it, as well.

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Technology has great potential for businesses in almost every realm of their organizations. However, its personal use by employees has also become the number one employment legal risk for employers. In fact, according to a recent study, businesses report that about 25 percent of outgoing email contains content that could pose a legal, financial or regulatory risk.

Balancing Privacy With Maintaining Productivity

For many employers, the larger issue with their worker's use of personal technology is the loss of productivity.  A study by OfficeTeam revealed that, among workers and senior office managers who were questioned, most of them used their cellphones to answer e-mails and visit social media sites, while spending an additional average of about 42 minutes a day on other personal tasks.

Basing their calculations on Department of Labor figures,  the study’s authors noted that,

“If these numbers were true for every full-time worker in the US, that would add up to $15.5 billion in lost productivity every week due to professionals using their mobile devices for nonwork activities.”

According to the study, the average office employee spends almost five hours every week on a cellphone. In addition to social media sites, workers use their phones to visit sports and entertainment sites, play mobile games, and shop. The study concluded that,

“All in all, the average employee could be wasting more than eight hours per work week on activities unrelated to the job.”

Another survey by CareerBuilders backs up these statistics. That survey found that 19 percent of employers questioned think that their workers are productive fewer than 5 hours a day. And 55 percent of employers pointed to employee texting and cell phone use as the biggest source of distraction.

According to an article about the survey results,

"...there’s a high cost of low productivity. Almost half of employers (48%) said smartphone distractions compromised the quality of work. Other negative consequences included: a lower morale because other workers have to pick up the slack (38%), a negative impact on the boss/employee relationship (28%), and missed deadlines (27%)."

While as many as 85 percent of businesses in the United States have some degree of Internet restrictions, and others actively monitor employee's use of company technology, there are problematic issues with privacy. And, in addition to the very real loss of productivity, there is there ever present and growing threat of cyber security breaches.

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Establishing Policies that Protect Privacy and Security Needs

One of the problems with the issue of technology and social media use is the rampant lack of policies and guidelines that are comprehensive and sensible. 

An article from The Balance points out the benefits of a well-though out policy,

"An effective internet and email policy that will help employees understand what is expected of them as it affects their work is a must for employers. You want to go on record to define what employees can do from work provided devices or employee-owned devices that are used for or involve your employees, your workplace, or your company.

Employees don't mind guidelines because they don't want to act inappropriately and cross a line that they didn't know existed. So, the development of a fair, understandable, sensible policy is strongly recommended."

According to, employees have basic rights in the workplace including the right to privacy. However, they also note that an employee's right to privacy in the workplace has become a controversial legal topic.

Technology now enables employers to monitor most workplace communications made by employees using company computers. They point out that, while employees may feel that this monitoring is a violation of their privacy rights, that often is not the case.

 In regards to Internet use and email, states,

"An employee's activities while using an employer's computer system are largely unprotected by personal privacy laws. Emails are considered to be company property if they are sent using the company's computer system. Employers generally have the right to monitor and view employee email, so long as they have a valid business purpose for doing so."

This does not mean that companies are exempt from disclosing their monitoring activities. In fact, the mere fact that employees are aware that their technology communications at work may be monitored can work to minimize abuse and security lapses.

Telephone communications while at work is more protected, however. There are wider limitations on an employer's right to monitor its employees' telephone usage at work. According to the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an employer may not monitor an employee's personal phone calls, even those made from telephones on work premises.

However, an employer may monitor a personal call if the employee knows the call is being monitored and has consented to it. The ECPA also protects an employee's voicemail messages at work. In fact, an employer may face legal liability if they read, disclose, delete, or prevent access to an employee's voicemail messages.

Up To Date Company Policies and Employee Handbooks

A company’s employee handbook is its blueprint for internal conduct. It is a written guide to how the company interacts with employees and the employees with one another. Policies should cover all aspects of what a business expects from employees such as attendance, safety rules, legal compliance with employment laws, facilities management, and dress codes.

Policies are guidelines that define company rules and procedure, and should include the consequences for not following them. And because of the dynamic nature of labor law and regulations, the employee handbook should be regularly reviewed and updated when necessary.

One of the most important aspects of any employee handbook is that it is kept up-to-date.

Laws change, new issues arise, and businesses evolve over time. And if your handbook is in multiple languages, each version needs to be updated, as well.

Protect Your Company and Your Employees

Company policies reinforce and clarify the standards expected of employees and help employers manage staff more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.

And an employee handbook that is comprehensive and up-to-date will provide the documentation for businesses faced with possible litigation arising from employee disputes.

If you have questions regarding this, or other HR compliance issues and practices, let us help you in managing your HR needs, payroll processes, and staying on top of compliance demands. Get your Free Download: Payroll Outsourcing Guide to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.

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Topics: policies and procedures, employee lawsuits, cybersecurity, personal technology, privacy issues

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