Is social media a necessary evil or a hindrance to professionalism? It depends on who you ask. If you ask one of the 28% of employers who have fired someone for using the internet for non-work related activity they will likely lean toward a hindrance.

Social media is a part of our world’s connected landscape that in the foreseeable future has no end. To one end, social media provides great networking opportunities and the chance for employees to share their accomplishments with their professional contacts via sites like LinkedIn. On the other end, disgruntled employees can launch fire storms that negatively affect their employer’s public persona, which is increasingly important.

As social media sites grow their presence in our everyday lives, some have turned status updates into journal entries and various companies have been exposed for internal misunderstandings and disagreements that may or may not have even happened. This begs the question- what can we, as employers, do to avoid this?

One of the most important steps to take is to have a clear outline of your expectations when it comes to an employee’s use of social media. A document should be given to new hires so they are fully aware of your company’s outlook on this topic- this should mention whether certain sites are blocked on your network, what they can and cannot post about the company on their personal pages, and what action will be taken against those who violate the terms. This serves both as an informational brief for employees and a legal leg for you to stand on if an issue arises.

A growing school of thought on social media and work suggests that having a ‘brain break’ will aid productivity. It is no secret that we are not built to work for 8 hours straight without reprieve, so many start-ups and highly progressive companies are allowing employees to log on to their favorite social outlets for short periods of time throughout the day. Many even leverage the followers of their employees to get their brand message out to a wider audience. Regardless of allowance, it is imperative that the guidelines are set.