Jamaica Gleaner / With the proliferation of Internet in general and social media in particular, living without the hand-held device called ‘SMARTphone’ might make us look very DUMB.

The rapid development in information and communication technology (ICT) has brought the world together, as one unit, could not have been imagined towards the end of 20th century.

Physical distances are relative. You just need to knock on the doors of the virtual domain of who you wish to connect with using any of the myriad any social media platforms that are ready to become your communication vehicle. The ease of use and the inexpensive nature of the media give the it a huge advantage.

Having said that, there are many concerns that have arisen and are growing with the rapid expansion of the social media phenomenon in the society.

While it is so ‘cool’ to share your profile with the world and get likes and comments from one and all, the fact is that you have laid bare a lot more information about yourself than you need to. Unfortunately, in the bargain, you have opened a window, or maybe a door, for unscrupulous people to peek in or enter your life in ways that could be potentially damaging for you. This is true for individuals and organisations alike.


Internet/Social Media access at workplace  

With millions of people accessing social media on their smartphones and tablets, at any given time, it is obvious that people are accessing these from their workplaces, too. This is an extremely contentious issue. There have been surveys, debates, statistics that advocate the good, bad, and the ugly of the practise of accessing social media access at the workplace.

Some of the problems that organisations see in allowing a free Internet flow within the organisation are:

– Reduction in employee productivity: Many surveys have been conducted to assess the impact of the social media behaviour of employees in the workplace, and almost all have returned with startling result that about two-thirds of the workforce uses social media platforms for personal purposes during their office hours. The impact of this behaviour is loss of employee productivity valued at billions of dollars

– High risk of malware attack: An open network increases the risk of hackers planting malicious software, which could have catastrophic results like the stealing of critical information, the crippling of complete networks, wiping out and disabling all the computers within the network, leading to huge losses

– Risk of Spoiling Employee Relations : Instances of cyber bullying, sending negative messages to one another, or spreading wrong and harmful rumours about colleagues through social media could create disharmony between team members and result in teamwork going astray and projects getting delayed. Social media platforms could well become a means of employees extracting personal vendettas.

– Company image and confidentiality: A disgruntled ex-employee or a careless employee may tweet about, post or update company’s internal and confidential information. This could have the far-reaching impact on the company’s reputation and status in corporate circles or within the industry.

– Wastage of company time and resources: Allowing employees to use company time and resources for their personal tasks and entertainment amounts to non-productive use of valuable assets.

Many companies, in the initial days, started by banning access to Internet for employees, however, with the advent of smartphones and inexpensive data, such measures have become futile. Moreover, social media is a highly potent marketing tool, which is increasingly becoming an integral part of the marketing communication plan of many companies.

Companies are now taking a more pragmatic view of the subject and implementing well-thought-out Internet and social media policies that aim to control the possible damaging effects while maximising the benefits that social media can deliver.


Employees’ Responsibilities  

While management has the responsibility of drafting the organisations’ operational policies, including the Internet and social media policy and ensuring its proper implementation, employees, too, have certain responsibilities towards the organisation.

– Sense of belonging: When you join an organisation with a sense of belonging and work in the interest of the organisation;

– Follow policies and guidelines: Employees must make efforts to understand the company’s vision and mission and get thoroughly acquainted with and follow the policies and guidelines in effect.

– Work-related vs personal: Employees are given certain roles and responsibilities to perform and are paid for doing so. During the hours that they are at work, it would be unethical and unfair to carry out personal work using company resources, e.g. using the office computer, network, and bandwidth to engage with family and friends; using Facebook, Twitter, etc.

– Ambassadorship: Employees must consider themselves the ambassadors of the organisation they work for and behave accordingly when in public view. Any careless action like posting an irresponsible statement against the company or inadvertent disclosure of internal information on a public platform could lead to unimaginable disaster for the employees as well as the company for which they work.

In the present landscape, where new technology developments are taking place by the hour and people are ever willing to adopt these new developments, it would be naive of the employers to ignore the influence – positive and negative – of this fast-changing environment and not have appropriate policies to address the impact.

At the same time, the employees, too, need to be completely aware of the regulations and policies that are in force at the workplace, and more important, be aware of their own responsibilities towards their employers and co-workers and ensure that their actions are directed towards the interests of the organisation for which they work for which and keep their personal tasks for after office hours.

– Ashish Jhingran is a Jamaica-based management and marcom practitioner and senior consultant with Synapse Communications. He has more than 25 years of experience with international companies, spanning several countries across the world. Send feedback to [email protected]


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