Social media is a powerful online tool that can be used positively for business and for pleasure. However, research by social media giant 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”. Health Assured CEO and wellbeing expert David Price comments on how to combat the negative impact of social media on their business employers should consider taking the below steps.

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To reduce adverse implications 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 prohibit the use of social media at work, whether through company equipment or on personal devices, to limit the negative effect this can have on mental health. It 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 social media or online activity policy will allow full transparency and clear understanding of the company’s stance on accessing social media at work.

Those who are in job 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 provide tips on resilience, filtering positive material and using good judgment to access information online. Outlining how staff can use social media for their job roles 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 place 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 lines or websites, can also be extended to include specific social media support services.

One initiative which 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 those employees who are currently suffering from the negative effects of social media or may go on to do so in the future.