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Online social networking at work

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Increasingly, employers are looking at how to tackle the thorny issue of employees’ use of social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn.

It’s a challenge all employers will have to face, given the growing ranks of social network site users here in Canada and around the world. What’s more, a recent study out of Ryerson University identified a new digital divide between young Canadians who socialize online frequently and regularly, and the employers and managers for whom they work. Their study found that the two groups – younger employees and older employers – have differing viewpoints on privacy when it comes to online networks. Furthermore, researchers found that, by and large, employers currently don’t have policies, guidelines or practices in place that govern the use of social networking sites in the workplace.

However, a small number of employers are starting to. So far, the responses by employers have varied widely – from banning outright all workplace access to social networking sites, to developing codes of conduct and guidelines for employees’ online activities.

The Trades Union Congress in the U.K. has developed a toolkit on IT security for their members, with one section devoted solely to social networks and privacy for employers and employees. They’ve also got a briefing note on online social networking and the implications for human resources managers.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing our own guidelines to help employers draft their own policies on the use of social network sites in the workplace.

To date, both the U.K. and the province of Ontario have issued their own advice on social networking and work, from the employee’s perspective – be sure to take a look at those as well.

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