Unions call for workplace guidelines for Facebook

The TUC, the organization representing trade unions in the UK, adds its voice to the big debate on what to do about Facebook and employee use.

In a practical approach to an issue that some companies see as a problem that can be solved only by banning it from the workplace, the TUC says that’s not the best approach:

[…] In guidance available on workSMART, its working life website, the TUC advises employers that they should have in place policies covering the use of email and the web, including social networking sites, at work, so that there are no nasty surprises for either employer or employee should things ever go wrong.

This is precisely the way to address an issue that isn’t going away and will truly become a problem for organizations unless it is addressed in the right way.

That right way isn’t just banning social networks, as I’ve been saying for a while; rather, it’s providing guidance to employees.

Although the power of unions in the UK has waned considerably over the past decade or so, the TUC is a major influencer and its call to action on this issue will stimulate further debate, which is good. (I wonder what the CBI, the organization representing many UK employers, will have to say.)

The TUC’s guidance on online social networking and work contains a series of questions and answers, all of which indicate that the author has a good sense of social networks and how they work.

Best of all is a concise but well-written briefing paper called Facing up to Facebook (PDF) which the TUC says is aimed at employers. Valid reading for employees, too.

The only niggle I have with the TUC’s approach is that it still looks upon social networks only as a workplace problem to be addressed. The quote above is a good example, talking about avoiding ‘nasty surprises.’

There are business benefits with places like Facebook that ought to be an equal element in overall discussion and debate.

Still, the TUC has added a powerful voice to the overall conversation with a sensible approach to a hot workplace topic.

[Later] Shel and I discussed Facebook and workplace issues in today’s episode #271 of the FIR podcast.

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