Office Christmas parties are a great opportunity for employees to let loose and have some festive fun after a long year of hard work. However, it’s important to be mindful of how your employees use social media at staff events. Inappropriate posts can have serious consequences for both employees and employers, damaging the reputations of all involved.
To help you avoid a poorly judged festive post going viral for all the wrong reasons, let’s delve into the dos and don’ts of social media at office Christmas parties. We’ll also give you a simple five-step guide to setting up a social media usage policy to protect your company from the workplace risks of ‘silly season’.
The dos and don’ts of social media at office Christmas parties
You want your office Christmas party to be filled with fun, and not regret. With social media posts potentially reaching an audience of millions, one ill-fated Facebook photo can quickly snowball into a wrecking-ball of a problem.
To avoid this scenario, it’s best to take a proactive approach and lay down clearly defined boundaries from the outset. Here are the dos and don’ts of social media at office Christmas parties:
Post positive and festive content: This is a great way to show off a company’s culture and boost employee morale. Encourage staff to share photos of the team enjoying the party or wearing woolly sweaters and Santa hats (in the height of summer, no less!), and don’t forget to use relevant hashtags.
Get permission: Before posting photos or videos of colleagues or employees, it’s important to respect people’s privacy and get permission, especially when they’re letting loose at a work event.
Reinforce the importance of your social media policy: Most companies have policies in place that govern employee social media use, even outside of work hours. It’s important to make sure your staff are familiar with your company’s policy. An email reminder in the run-up to the festivities never goes amiss.
Post inappropriate photos or videos: This includes photos of people who are drunk, disorderly, or in compromising situations. It’s also important to avoid posting anything that could be construed as discrimination or harassment.
Post derogatory comments about the company or coworkers: Even if an employee is just having a bad day, it’s not worth them airing their grievances on social media. Doing so could damage their professional reputation and get them in trouble with the company.
Over-share: It’s important to remember that social media posts are a reflection of the employee and their company. Staff should be careful about what they share, and make sure they’re comfortable with the world seeing it.
Social media usage & employment law
In addition to the general dos and don’ts listed above, there are a few specific employment law implications that Australian employers should be aware of when it comes to social media use at office Christmas parties.
In Australia, employers have a duty to provide a safe and harassment-free workplace. This extends to work-related social events, such as office Christmas parties. This means that employers can take disciplinary action against employees who post inappropriate content on social media, even if it’s outside of work hours.
For example, in the case of Fair Work Australia v Cassar-Daley (2018), an employee was dismissed for posting a photo of himself on social media drinking heavily at the company Christmas party. The Fair Work Commission found that the employee’s conduct was “seriously inappropriate”, and that the dismissal was fair.
In another case, Fair Work Australia v Bowman (2019), an employee was disciplined for posting a comment on social media about her boss being drunk at the company Christmas party. The Fair Work Commission found that the employee’s comment was not defamatory, but that it was still inappropriate and could have damaged the employer’s reputation. The employee’s discipline was upheld.
These cases show that Australian employment law takes social media use very seriously. Employers have a right to take disciplinary action against employees who post inappropriate content online, even if it’s outside of work hours.
Christmas Party Duty of Care Checklist
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How to be social media savvy at the office Christmas party
Here are a few tips for employees on how to have fun and be safe on social media at the office Christmas party:
Be mindful of what you post. Think about who might see your posts and how they might be interpreted.
Get permission from colleagues before posting photos or videos of them.
Don’t post anything that is inappropriate, offensive, or discriminatory. If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself.
Don’t over-share. Be careful about how much personal information you share online.
Don’t post about the party while you’re still at the party. You might not be thinking clearly after a few drinks, and you could end up posting something that you later regret. Before you hit ‘post’, mull it over. Those mulled wines might have impaired your judgement!
Tips for employers on how to manage social media risks
Here are a few tips for employers on how to manage social media risks at office Christmas parties:
Remind employees of the social media policy before the office Christmas party. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of the company’s expectations and that they’re following the policy.
Monitor social media during and after the office Christmas party. This will help you to identify any inappropriate posts and to take appropriate action if necessary.
Be prepared to take disciplinary action against employees who violate a social media policy. This may include verbal or written warnings, or termination of employment in the case of gross misconduct.
Last, but definitely not least, have a social media policy in place. This policy should outline the company’s expectations for employee social media use, both during and outside of work hours. The policy should also be communicated to all employees on a regular basis.
Create a workplace social media policy in five simple steps
If you don’t already have one, it’s wise to put a social media usage policy in place before the party season kicks in. Here’s a simple five-step guide to creating a policy tailored to your company.
Identify your goals: What do you want your social media policy to achieve? Do you want to protect your brand reputation, prevent employees from sharing confidential information, or encourage employees to use social media to promote the company? Once you know your goals, you can start to develop specific policies and procedures. Make sure they are specific to your industry and company culture.
Research the law: There are a number of laws that apply to social media use in the workplace, such as anti-discrimination laws, privacy laws, and defamation laws. It is important to make sure that your social media policy complies with all relevant laws.
Get input from employees: It’s important to involve employees in the development of your social media policy. This will help to ensure that the policy is fair and reasonable, and that employees understand and agree with the rules.
Write clear and concise policies and procedures: Your social media policy should be easy to read and understand. It should clearly state what is and is not acceptable behavior on social media, and what the repercussions will be for breaking these rules and violating the policy.
Communicate the policy to employees: Once you have developed your social media policy, it’s important to communicate it to all employees. This can be done through a variety of channels, such as email, training sessions, or employee handbooks.
Remember – the social media landscape is always changing, and your policy will need to evolve to reflect the times too. Be sure to review your policy regularly and update it as needed.
Social media can be a great way to have fun and connect with colleagues at the Christmas party. However, it’s important that staff are mindful of what they post, both for their own sake and for the sake of your business. By following all the tips above, you can make your office Christmas party one to remember (for the right reasons!) and avoid any social media slip ups.
If you’re an Australian business owner and unsure about your policies and procedures, speak to the experts today. Call our FREE Advice Line on 1300 651 415 and get all your difficult HR questions answered.