How to Address Employees on Facebook During Working Hours
Facebook has become the dominant website for social networking across the country with businesses and personal users alike taking advantage of the website’s ability to reach millions of people instantly. As a small-business owner, how you address employee use of Facebook while in your workplace can have a lasting affect on how your company uses social networking and what employees say about your company as a whole.
Monitoring Computer Use
Monitoring employee computer use while in the office can be an effective means of ensuring your employees are focusing on work-related tasks and not spending half the workday on Facebook. As a business owner, it’s perfectly legal for you to monitor employee activity when employees are using company-owned equipment. You also should inform employees of your intention to conduct surveillance of computer use and distribute a clear monitoring policy stating the websites you don’t want your employees visiting while on company time — including Facebook — as well as the consequences for violating this policy.
Restricting Work-Related Material
Just as Facebook can provide a free means of business advertising, the social networking website also can become an easy platform for disparaging remarks against your small business. Enacting a social networking policy in the workplace that bans employee commenting on work-related subjects can stop this trend before it starts and limit any damaging remarks from disgruntled workers. Your company policy doesn’t necessarily ban using Facebook altogether in the workplace, just conversations regarding your business and any workplace activities.
Complying With State Laws
At the time of publication, no state or federal laws restricting your ability as a business owner to monitor employee computer use or employee social networking activity exist. Several states — including California, New York and Colorado — place restrictions on employee termination for activity outside of the workplace. If your business operates in any of these states, your social networking policy can only apply to activity in the workplace. If you fire an employee for a Facebook post made outside of work, you may be breaking the law.
If you don’t want your employees using social networking websites, including Facebook, while at work, you’re free as a business owner to ban access to these websites on your business equipment. Installing website-blocking software on your company computers can restrict employee access to websites you don’t want them using while on company time. Establishing a policy for using personal computing devices, including laptops and smartphones, can further restrict employee access to social networking websites and keep workers focused on business tasks.