Are social media and online shopping the new ‘cigarette breaks’?

A decade ago, businesses considered staff members who indulged their nicotine habit while punching the time clock as the biggest impediment to profits, productivity and results. But these days, employees who send tweets when they should be working and spend their afternoons bidding for designer sunglasses on eBay are the reigning employer grievance.

More than one-third of respondents in a recent Robert Half survey reported that surfing non-related websites during work hours accounted for as much as 10 per cent of an employee’s day. So what should the guidelines be when it comes to online shopping and social media at work?

Tone down your social media addiction

For most employees, the line between using work for social media purposes and wasting hours sifting through real-time status updates isn’t always clear. Although many companies advocate that staff use channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to build brand awareness and foster customer relationships, using social media for personal reasons is often frowned upon.

Posting a link to an article on Facebook during your lunch hour is appropriate, but spending your morning uploading party photos or complaining about your manager’s work habits is sure to put you in the danger zone. Businesses are increasingly turning to social media to monitor the loyalty and character of their hires, and tarnishing a brand’s reputation online is often a sackable offence.

Curb visits to the virtual check-out

Whether you’re using a ‘click and collect’ service to buy your evening groceries or shopping for your nephew’s birthday present during morning tea, there’s no denying that online shopping is often a fast, convenient alternative to standing in line. But although most employees understand the need to visit an online shopping site to make an occasional purchase, it’s not wise to surf the net for hours when you should be completing your work. If you are allowed to shop online at work, you’re lucky, because 23 per cent of respondents completely block access.

It’s no secret that the internet has had a seismic impact on our working lives, but if you’re an employee, it’s not always clear whether you’re breaking the rules. That’s why making sure you think about your company’s culture and thoroughly review staff policy documents at regular intervals is your best bet for keeping yourself out of hot water.

But like cigarette breaks in the ’80s, sometimes the rules of social media use and the restrictions around online shopping aren’t clear. However, keeping your levels of professionalism intact while using work computers to access social media and limiting your online shopping to lunch breaks are the closest things to best practice.

Does your workplace have a policy for social media?

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