11/07/2014

By Leon Edwards, Group Managing Director of Versapak.co.uk

As many as two thirds of Britons employed in workplaces where they have access to highly sensitive and confidential information have admitted that they use their mobile phones to update social media profiles whilst at their desk, according to new research.

The study, conducted by www.Versapak.co.uk polled a total of 2,093 UK adults aged 18 and over for the purposes of the research. All individuals taking part stated that they work or had worked in jobs where they were regularly exposed to secure and confidential information and were prohibited from using their phones due to the potential security risk. Examples of data-sensitive workplaces include call centres for national banks, insurance sales and medical helplines.

Respondents were initially asked to reveal if they had ever used their mobile phones to update social media accounts at their desk or in their workplace, in spite of rules against doing so, with 67% admitted that they had done updated social media. ‘Updating a Facebook status or tweet’ (44%), ‘uploading a photo to instagram’ (32%) and ‘directly messaging a friend or family member’ (24%) emerged as the most frequent activities carried out on social media whilst employees were at their work.

When asked to disclose how often they accessed social media sites whilst at work, the majority of offending participants (59%) confessed they did so ‘a couple of times a week with 21% admitting to doing so ‘every day’. What’s more, 6% confessed to being so attached to social media, that they used it ‘several times per day’ whilst at work when it’s forbidden.

17% of these employees revealed to researchers that they had been caught by their bosses or fellow colleagues either red-handed or as a result of posts made during work hours. Individuals were asked what their subsequent punishments had been and, whilst the majority (74%) received a warning or loss of privileges, 11% admitted the act had resulted in instant dismissal from the company. When asked if they had used social media on their phones at work since being caught, two thirds (66%) admitted that they hadn’t done so, whilst 44% had continued to break their employer’s rules.

After analysing the results of the study, Versapak is calling on businesses to invest in stricter regulations to prevent the risk of important and confidential information ending up on social media sites, breaching data security regulations.

Whilst social media undoubtedly has many advantages, one drawback of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is just how easy it is to disseminate information. In a company or office where workers are dealing with confidential and highly private information on a daily basis, data shared through social media, intentional or accidental, has the potential to reach people around the world in a mere matter of seconds. This should not be a risk employers should be willing to take, and by investing in higher personal security measures for staff, they can ensure that they won’t ever have to.