In the Workplace

Ethical & Legal Implications of Social Media

My Twitter profile, used to help build my image.

The midday lull hits you at work and for just a quick minute, you hop onto Facebook, Twitter, or one of the infinite social media platforms. A short break from the work world flows into the online world of social media, but to what extent should employees be allowed to use social media on company time?

When examining the extent to which employees should be allowed to use social media on company time, it is important to remember the context. If your job requires an online presence — as so many jobs in public relations and communications do — then a social media break at work seems appropriate.

Guidance is necessary for employees’ interactions with social media during the work day. Often times, companies expect employees to portray an appropriate and presentable online self. In other words, your online presence is a reflection of the company.

Apple made this point clear to its employees, stating “as an Apple employee, you represent the Apple brand.”

Many brands want to make sure that employees are acting in a way that is sound and on message with the brand. The blur between private and work life comes into play when employees choose to use their social media platforms during work hours.

The guidelines put in place by brands were seemingly written to guide employees on what is appropriate to post and what is not. However, when off duty, there is still seemingly an obligation to abide by said guidelines, restricting the freedom of an employee’s private life on social media.

While there is no right or wrong answer, it is clear that there is some gray area in the ethical and legal implications of using social media while at work.

Abbott Laboratories social media channels has set terms of use for its different social media platforms, where Abbott has the power to “delete irresponsible content or content that is otherwise inconsistent with the purpose of the Abbott social media channels.”

Similar to brands like Apple, social media sites themselves have the power to delete content that is not in line with the values and ethics of the sites.

It is best practice for employees to proceed with caution when using social media platforms while at work. Using your best judgement and making sure you would be fine with your boss seeing your posts is key to staying safe and separating work life from home life.