Whether we like it or not, Australia is online every single day.

Checking up on news, following brands and businesses or connecting with family and friends. It all seems relatively innocent. But when social media and employment are interconnected, stress, harassment and bullying in the workplace increase, becoming only some of the problems that can occur if social media isn’t handled properly.

Although social media is a positive force behind new jobs, content marketing and building businesses and brands, reputational harm and private use of it during work is one of the pitfalls of today’s workplace.

Social media has opened up an endless supply of information and entertainment for employers and employees. 88% of Australians have a social media profile. How do you combat the creation and manage the lines between personal and professional, which have become increasingly blurred?

Here are the latest best practices for social media in the workplace.

Create Clear Social Media Policies

And do it properly.

Today, more than half of Australians are using social media. 35% of them are checking it more than five times a day, which makes clear social media policies in the workplace a priority.

Regardless of the industry, every business should have a social media policy in place and clearly communicate it with staff. Make it part of every employee’s induction, distribute a copy to everybody and make sure they’ve read and acknowledged the guidelines.

Social media policies should outline expectations, company’s values and rules and guidelines around engagement with colleagues online. If any part of the policy is breached, consequences must be stated prior. The policy should also offer a process for removing or responding to offending posts/comments and guidelines into if and how employees can use social media during work hours, depending on their job roles and work conditions.

Remember, review your policy every year to ensure it’s still aligned with your core values and you’re implementing a good ‘best business practice’ policy.

Use Strategic Planning for Public and Company Posting

Make a decision on private, public and company posts and be clear about where the lines are drawn. Use a top-to-bottom approach to create a communications plan at every level.

Where there’s a guideline in place, it’s easier. People can distinguish the boundaries better and respect them. Strategic planning and education about social media etiquette can teach employees to be relevant in what they say when they post and the best way to use platforms for public and company online conversations.

If You Want Facebook Private, Keep it Private from Professional Life

Technology has made it nearly impossible to keep online life separate from professional life.

But if you have your work colleagues on your profile, then the two worlds have already merged. To keep Facebook private and completely separate from your professional life, make sure work colleagues or your boss aren’t on there and keep your security settings tight.

Can’t decide? Consider whether you use your account as a professional networking tool or to keep in contact with friends and family. If it’s for social, not career, professional contacts shouldn’t have access to it.

Social Media Breaches Should Lead to Employment Termination

Depending on the policy, industry risks and consequences for policy breaches, the employer has the right to terminate an employment agreement. If social media posts or comments cause a breach of the terms of employment or policy contract, immediate termination can occur.

To minimise these risks, make sure your comments on social media don’t:

  • intentionally disclose confidential business information
  • criticise/damage the reputation of your employer
  • bully/harass colleagues or clients

Encourage a Social Media Audit

Keep tabs on your digital identity and delete any unnecessary junk.

Your social media presence should be regularly audited and edited. Lock down on privacy settings, go back through posts and delete anything compromising and review the posts and photos you’re tagged in. Review groups you’re added too and pages you follow to ensure they’re aligned with what you want your social channels to reflect.

Business Tool vs Social Distraction

Social media has become a major communications channel.

Employees who use social media for work can be more engaged. However, reducing workplace distractions is challenging to police when online communications are relied on for many job roles.

How can employers use it to maximise staff engagement and minimise lost productivity and digital distractions?

  • Put concise parameters around how employees use and engage with social media tools during work hours
  • Understand a good policy is only half the answer. Social media policies must be well policed, constantly enforced and reflect the workplace’s culture and staff engagement
  • Manage company time by setting solid schedules or allowing limited ‘excess’ social media time
  • Set reasonable standards for employees to do their jobs within a reasonable time allocated to minimise time-wasting