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Facebook At The Office? Make Sure It’s Covered By Your Employment Policies

Posted by Eric Parzianello on May 21, 2010

Are your employees allowed unlimited access to Facebook? Across the country, not many employers allow it and those which do are restricting usage through written policies.

A recent survey commissioned by Robert Half Technology found that 54% of American companies banned employees from logging on to Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites from the office. Of more than 1,400 executives surveyed, only 10% gave employees unlimited access to social networks at work, while 16% allowed some personal use. Another Robert Half survey found that 38% of chief information officers interviewed have implemented stricter social networking policies — more than twice the number (17%) who say they have relaxed the rules.

A Detroit Free Press article noted that companies which allow unrestricted access to Facebook say factors such as boosting company branding and employee morale “outweigh the risks of wasted time and dips in productivity.” Ford Motor Company believes that employees on Facebook and blogs “can be powerful advocates” for the company but it also has this warning for employees: “Don’t share secret information. Don’t trade on insider information. And remember, whatever happens in Vegas, stays on Google.”

The majority of companies which prohibit access to social networking sites point to studies such as one conducted by Boston based Nucleus Research which concluded that companies allowing full access to Facebook have a 1.5% drop in total office productivity. Other concerns obviously also exist.

A waitress for Brixx Pizza in North Carolina recently lost her job over her Facebook usage. She served a couple who came in for lunch and stayed for three hours – forcing her to work an hour past her quitting time. The couple then rewarded the waitress with a $5 tip. She did what many Facebookers now do and posted a rant: “Thanks for eating at Brixx,” she wrote, “you cheap piece of – – – – camper.” She was fired for violating the company’s well-drafted policy which specifically prohibits employees from disparaging customers and “casting the restaurant in a negative light” on a social network.

As we wait to see how the Supreme Court rules on the usage of company pagers in the employee “sexting” case, at least one thing remains clear for employers: maintain a written policy on use of the company’s technology.

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