Employee mental health and social media

To combat the negative impact of social media employers should consider taking these steps

Social media is a powerful tool that can be used positively for business and for leisure. However, research by Facebook has now found that spending time on social media can adversely affect mental health as people who 'passively consume information' through these platforms are more likely to 'feel worse'.

To reduce the adverse effects of social media at work, employers should have rules in place about accessing these accounts during working hours. In most cases it will be prudent to completely prohibit the use of social media at work, whether through company equipment or on personal devices, to limit the negative effect it can have on mental health. This will also help reduce any loss of productivity or quality of work as employees will not be distracted by their social media accounts. Setting out these rules in a policy will allow full transparency and clear understanding of the company’s stance on accessing social media at work.

Those who are in roles that require them to be active on social media should receive full training on using these accounts. The training can cover using social media for business, i.e. how to promote the company’s message or writing posts that comply with the company brand, but can also provide mental health support and awareness. These sessions can give tips on resilience, filtering positive material, and using good judgment to access information online. Outlining how staff can use social media for their jobs will also help reiterate that accounts should be used for a particular purpose and not for browsing posts.

As mental health is increasingly recognised as one of the main barriers to a productive, high-performing and happy workforce, employers are putting in positive strategies to support mental health at work. Tackling the effects of social media on health can be incorporated into these plans. Mental health policies could be expanded to detail how employers will identify and tackle issues of poor mental health due to social media. Any support programmes outlined in the policy, such as telephone counselling or websites, can also be extended to include specific social media support services.

One initiative that is increasing in popularity is to have a mental health awareness or wellbeing event for all members of staff. These provide fun and informative ways of educating staff and increasing awareness to help identify mental health concerns and take steps to address these. Planning a social media session as part of these events – covering education, the impact of social media and how to access help – will support employees who are currently suffering from the negative effects of social media or may do so in the future.

David Price is CEO of Health Assured