An anti-cyberbullying policy for the workplace?

Recent study by AVG Technologies has revealed an increase in the misuse of social media in the workplace, leading to cyberbullying and harassment.

AVG Technologies recently conducted the seventh instalment of their Digital Diaries study to examine issues of privacy and cyberbullying in the workplace.

Spanning 10 countries, with over 4000 respondents including 400 in Australia, the study found that misuse of social media infiltrates the workplace, with workers being subjected to cyberbullying, harassment and unwanted romantic advances from colleagues.

The study also indicates that small businesses and entrepreneurial set-ups are especially vulnerable to cyberbullying and harassment due to there being a lack of processes, policies or codes to address the issue of social media usage in the workplace.

“The findings of our Digital Work Life study point to the growing concerns associated with online privacy and cyberbullying within small business. While it is widely acknowledged that the lines between the workplace and home are blurring, little is being done by businesses to confront the issues that this trend will cause in the office,” said Mike Foreman, General Manager for SMB at AVG Technologies.

6 out of 10 Australians (62 percent) who were surveyed believe privacy in the workplace has been eroded with the proliferation of social media. Over half of them also felt that their company is responsible for the online behaviour of their employees during work hours if personal social media accounts are being used.

Here are some of the key findings of the study:

  • 8 percent of Australians discovered secret discussions about them online were initiated by colleagues using social media;
  • 10 percent have had embarrassing photos or videos taken at a work event and uploaded onto social media sites;
  • 7 percent found themselves subjected to unwanted romantic advances through online media;
  • more than 25 percent of respondents felt pressured into accepting social media friend requests from work colleagues.

In light of this, small business owners need to develop a course of action should employees be subjected to cyberbullying and harassment in the workplace. Preventative measures should also be taken to promote a bullying-free workplace – for instance, a fair, open and transparent policy would help build employee morale.

Although there is currently no specific law in Australia that requires employers to have an anti-cyberbullying policy for their staff, there are obligations in various pieces of legislation that make it prudent for an employer to have one.

For instance, under the NSW Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employers are obligated to remove risks from the workplace that may cause harm or injury to workers such as workplace violence, bullying and harassment that expose employees to health or safety risk. They are also obligated to take practical steps to identify, assess and control reasonably foreseeable psychological risks.

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