Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Regulating social media at work is a Sisyphean task

According to Ajilon (as reported by BenefitsPro), American employees spend 140 per year (or an average of 33 minutes per day) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. Aggregated across all employees, the survey estimates this personal time costs employers $192.4 billion each year.

These numbers, however, merely beg the questions — (1) should you care and (2) what can you do about it?

The answers? (1) Of course, and (2) not much.

As I've long argued, employers that try regulate personal social media use out of the workplace are fighting a Sisyphean battle. I call it the iPhone-ification of the American workforce. No matter your policy trying to regulate or outright ban social media in your workplace, if your employees can take their smartphones out of their pockets to circumvent the policy, how can you possibly police workplace social media access? Why have a policy you cannot police and enforce? And, don’t forget, the NLRB is watching, too.

Instead of regulating an issue you cannot hope to control, treat employees’ use of social media for what it is—a performance issue. If an employee is not performing up to standards because he or she is spending too much time on the internet, then address the performance problem. Counsel, discipline, and ultimately terminate if the performance does not improve. A slacking employee, however, will not become a star performer just because you limit his or her social media access; he or she will just find another way to slack off. Instead of wasting your resources to fight a battle you cannot win, reapportion them to win battles worth fighting.