Q: My college-aged daughter spends an awful lot of time texting and Facebooking (if that is such a word). I have seen some of my younger colleagues at work spending time on these activities when they are supposed to be working. I am worried about my daughter’s success in the workplace if she spends all of her time on these sites and texting messages to friends. I have a personal Facebook page but I would never consider opening it up during the work day. I see some of her friend’s pages and I am horrified. Do employers look at these pages and sites? Can you offer some guidelines on what is appropriate in the workplace (and what is not)?
A: This is an area of growing concern among employers. I have some clients that have blocked these sites altogether. Other clients monitor their employees’ access to such sites. While others allow it but trust that employees are only accessing such sites during breaks. Employees should not assume that communications using an employer’s computer or email system is confidential. Much, if not all, of this information can be tracked.
Some employers are now implementing social media policies in their employee handbooks. In these policies specific guidelines are defined for employees regarding the employer’s expectations around social media usage and access.
Although it seems like I am stating the obvious, employers are paying employees to work while at work. All of us who work will need to occasionally make a personal call about a car repair, a changed venue for dinner or to learn about results from a lab test. During work time, these calls and texts should be brief, to the point and limited. Unless it is part of an employee’s job, accessing social media sites should be limited or non-existent much like making personal telephone calls or sending text messages. Some employers permit employees to access these sites during breaks. Some do not permit access at all.
Both job seekers and employees should take care in what is posted on social media sites. I recently had a client contact me about an employee that was posting negative comments on Facebook about her job. The client wasn’t pleased about the negative PR, particularly since many of her Facebook friends were also coworkers. This client was also surprised that this employee has so much free time on her hands since the comments were posted during the work day.
I had another client contact me recently about a newly hired employee who was had an absenteeism and tardiness issue. Upon review of her Facebook profile, the client discovered it was likely not a problem with the trains (the reason that employee provided) but instead probably due to the many late evenings out with her friends.
More and more of my clients are reviewing Facebook and other sites when they become serious about a candidate. Candidates should use the privacy controls available and/or remove inappropriate or controversial materials from their personal pages.
I would suggest to all employees to reserve their social media access to non-work hours. There are some roles which require access to social media sites (interactive marketing roles) but these roles are the exception, not the norm.