If you haven’t yet considered the effects of social media in the workplace, you should.  According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 72 percent of employees spend time on social network sites every day, 28 percent for an hour or more. The ramifications are numerous.

The first obvious consideration is lost productivity. If employees are spending time online, they’re not spending time doing their jobs. While some social media usage may be happening on break or during lunch, it’s extremely likely that a lot is still happening during work time.

Another concern is what your employees are posting on these sites. Are they making disparaging comments about their employer? Insensitive or discriminatory remarks about members of a protected class? Posting information you consider confidential to the company?  If so, how do you handle this?

A good place to start is a social media policy. Clearly outline your organization’s expectations regarding social media and the workplace. If you will not allow any social media usage at work, be sure to clearly state this in your policy. Outline that disparaging, discriminatory or offensive comments about the employer or fellow employees will not be tolerated and include the consequences for these actions. You may also want to consider a statement advising employees they are not allowed to use their work email addresses when they register for, or use, social media sites.

If your primary concern is lack of productivity while at work, consider website blocking software. Many options exist. You may choose extremely strict controls that allow no access to any sites other than a few select options, such as your company’s website. You may choose to restrict just social media sites. Or you may choose variations, such as allowing the professional social media site LinkedIn but disallowing job searches. You know the culture of your organization – you should select the option that best suits your workforce.

One final avenue of consideration is to embrace social media in the workplace and use it to your advantage. Many employers are already using social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to promote their products. They are utilizing this as a marketing tool focused on external customers. However, these sites can be useful internally as well.

A Facebook page can reveal a lot about the culture of a company. Some organizations post witty commentary, others prefer product images, while some focus on just the basics of their services.  A corporate Facebook page is about creating a brand and employees can feel very connected and vital to the organization’s brand if done right. You can also consider Twitter and how fast messages can be spread. If your employees are following your company on Twitter, you can “tweet” one message and reach everyone simultaneously, a great way to enhance internal communication.

Whether you choose to embrace social media in the workplace or shun it, you can’t ignore it.  With 72 percent of employees already using social media and a new generation of employees entering the workplace who have never known a time without the Internet, social media is not going away. Take a look at your organization and decide what method best fits into your culture.  Ask for help if you need it. Most likely, there’s already a LinkedIn discussion forum set up to address this very topic.

Kamara Roach

Kamara Roach is a partner at the HR Consulting firm, SBG Midwest. SBG Midwest provides human resources services to businesses in the northwest Missouri region. Kamara is SPHR certified and holds a Master’s degree in HR Administration. Prior to starting SBG Midwest, Kamara was the top HR executive for an international railroad and construction contractor. Kamara was a speaker at the 2005 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Benefits Communication and Technology conference and has been featured in Employee Benefit News, a national benefits magazine, for her role in implementing a consumer driven healthcare plan at her former employer. Kamara was a 2013 nominee for the Women of Excellence Award in the category of Woman in the Workplace.