Growing numbers of employees using social media at work

Businesses warned against legal and financial threat as 78% of workers go online

Three out of four workers are using personal devices to access social media at work with the trend continuing to grow.

A new study found 78 per cent of people engaged in social media while doing their jobs, a figure that has grown from 60 per cent in 2013 although the amount of time they spend on platforms has fallen.

The report, issued on Wednesday by William Fry solicitors, also found men will spend more time on social media at work than their female colleagues, at an average of 39 minutes to 25.

While the amount of people using social media has increased, the time they spend on it has decreased.

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In 2013, when the study began, employees would engage for up to one hour, a duration that has now halved to about 30 minutes on average.

If the practice is of concern to employers, the study shows just over one third do not have a policy in place governing media use (36 per cent) - 25 per cent of workers are unsure if there is one.

Catherine O’Flynn, a partner at William Fry’s employment and benefits department said companies should have a policy in place to safeguard against the growing trend.

“Businesses risk serious reputational and/or financial consequences from employees’ inappropriate activity on social media channels,” she said.

“Accordingly, it is vital that organisations address use on personal devices as well as company devices when preparing their social media polices.”

The report notes the continued popularity of LinkedIn and other professional networking platforms as a factor in the rising number of employees using social media. Just under one quarter use the technology to apply for jobs.

William Fry said it was having an impact on how employees conduct themselves on these various channels with 46 per cent of employees - up from 28 per cent in 2013 - saying they would now think carefully about what they post in the event of a prospective employer seeing it.

Of further potential concern to employers was the use and “ownership” of contacts in social media accounts and what happens when an employee leaves the company.

In Ireland, 44 per cent of employees have work-related contacts on their personal social media accounts and yet 96 per cent have never discussed with their employer what will happen to these contacts once they leave employment.

“This is another area that organisations need to address to prevent the loss of valuable contacts and information,” said Ms O’Flynn.

“This is especially important as the market continues to pick up and employees move from one job to another with more frequency and speed.”

Case law has emerged in Ireland, the report notes, over the last 12 months which highlights the “continuing need for employers to have a policy in place in order to have a defence to claims of vicarious liability brought by employees against the organisation in relation to the conduct of their colleagues”.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times