On average, UK employees spend 13 hours on social media each week – and that’s only during working hours. The survey revealed that most of these employees reached for their phone as the day drew to a close, typically between 3pm-5pm. Upon this realisation, many HR departments may call for a total ban on social media, but there are actually plenty of reasons why social media could be beneficial in the workplace.

Most employees realise that there is a level of trust involved if their employer allows them to access social media while they’re at work. In fact, it’s this trust that can make staff feel valued and respected. As a result, they feel happier – which in turn leads to a more productive team. The occasional glance at Facebook or Twitter can boost morale in the office, and often opens up conversations which strengthen the bonds between team members. In a sense, social media is the modern-day water cooler. While employees used to take a quick break to grab a glass of water or print off a document, most people now turn to their mobile phones instead.

Plus, taking a short break – even if just for 60 seconds – can allow employees to look at their work with fresh pair of eyes. There are countless studies proving that taking regular breaks at work will boost productivity, and its importance shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, this needn’t be a break from work entirely – but simply the task at hand, so employers could be utilising these breaks to benefit the company as a whole. Social media is a brilliant tool for employer branding, and by encouraging employees to share highlights from their working day, you’ll be able to strengthen your company’s online presence.

While the term ‘social media’ may bring to mind holiday snaps and selfies, it’s something no longer reserved for personal use. Generally, LinkedIn and Twitter tend to be the most corporate-focused platforms, so by allowing employees to spend a few minutes scrolling through their news feeds, they’ll get an at-a-glance overview of current affairs. It’s also useful for keeping up with what your clients – and competitors – are up to too.

However, the use of any social media platform does bring challenges into the workplace. Of course, social media is notorious for wasting time. But more importantly, it gives staff the power to publicly broadcast something which may cause offense or negatively impact the company’s reputation. If this should happen, there are no specific laws in place to prevent employers from taking action – whether it be a warning, suspension or dismissal. It’s likely that the employee will dispute this, so be prepared to explain that you have a lawful reason for investigating it – particularly if GDPR is involved.

Ultimately, companies must accept that they must trust employees to use social media in an appropriate manner. Whether or not organisations allow employees to access social media within working hours, they are only able to regulate activity published by the company’s own channels – not employees’ own personal platforms.