I have heard a number of stories about firms of accountants trying to limit their staff (and partners’) access to social media sites. This is generally based on fear of the unknown. The motives may also be driven by misconceptions drawn from misleading, inaccurate or simply ill-informed media reports and references to twitter, facebook and even Linkedin.

Here are some key questions to consider before you implement any such changes:

1 – Are we all agreed as to what counts as a social media site? Many people would include Linkedin which is more of as an online business networking site. And that’s certainly how I use it. Limiting partners’ access to Linkedin is to limit the firm’s potential to secure profitable new clients. Far better to invest in some training so that everyone knows HOW to use Linkedin effectively and uses similar wording to describe the  firm in their profiles.

2 – It’s probably not just social media sites you want to stop your staff accessing during working hours. There are plenty of other non-work related websites that staff may access. Some with video feeds. What about news junkies? TV soap junkies? Staff planning their nights out? Those with health issues? Sports fans? The list goes on and on. Why focus on social media sites?

3 – What about access to these sites that is achieved via staff’s personal smart-phones? over 3G, 4G or via your wifi connection? So many options. What about personal phone calls? Long ones vs short ones?

Surely what REALLY matters is whether staff are focused on working or on personal matters during working hours. What do you do about those who start early and finish late but spend 20 mins on non-work websites during the day?

If you can’t trust the staff working for you in a professional office you need to review your recruitment, appraisal and promotion policies. And do check with an employment lawyer before you start making changes to employment terms and conditions. The second part of this update will summarise the issues to consider in this regard.

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