Five to ten years ago, employee handbooks typically addressed personal employee internet use with a provision like this one: “Employees shall not use company computers for personal use. All email and online communication shall be for business purposes only.” As to social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace, often employers simply elected to block employee access.
Times have changed. It is increasingly rare for companies try to enforce these types of policies and practices. The goal now is to regulate what employees say when they are online. This is particularly important when it comes to social networking.
What should a social networking policy include? At a minimum, it should address the following:
- a statement that employees must not reveal confidential company information to anyone outside the company;
- a reminder that any communication that perpetuates workplace harassment or discrimination is prohibited;
- expectations about when it is permissible or impermissible to access social networking sites during work hours or with the use of company computers or cell phones; and
- a rule against revealing the identity of a company’s business partners, clients, or customers.
Because technology and social networking trends change quickly, a company’s social networking policy should be evaluated and updated fairly often. As with any change in policy and/or updates to an employee handbook, it is important to communicate the change and obtain each employee’s acknowledgment of it.