Snapchatting in the Workplace: What’s Off-Limits?

August 31, 2016

Twenty years ago, employees around the world wasted the company dime playing solitaire. Fifteen years ago, it was AOL Instant Messenger. Ten years ago it was Facebook—and today, Snapchat is the procrastinator’s weapon of choice.

If you are a millennial, an employer of millennials, a Gen X who desperately wants the world to think you’re a millennial, or are you’re just too hip to be square, then you Snapchat. If you think Snapchat is unimportant, you might be surprised to learn that in 2016 Snapchat reached 10 billion daily video views a day.

If you have no idea what Snapchat is, here is a quick guide.

Snapchat is an app for your smartphone that takes pictures or short videos that you can send to friends or post so people who follow you can view them for a period of time before the disappear. Think Mission Impossible style photo/video posts – these images will self-destruct in five seconds. The app provides several fun filters, text options and drawings that can be altered or placed over your photos.

One more thing about Snapchat: Using the app at work could cause employees some trouble.

How Can Snapchat Get Me in Trouble at Work?

Due to the temporary nature of the posts, the most severe work-related offense would be to use Snapchat to send nude or suggestive photos with the false sense that they will be seen and then disappear. But the likelihood of employers having to deal with that is slim. Studies show that only about 15% of Snapchat users ever send sexual content. The majority of users (about 60%) mainly use Snapchat to post and send creative content like “stupid faces.” Snapchat’s main demographic is and has always been millennials, but its use is spreading among other age groups, especially as celebrities and those who are “Internet famous” gather followers and post stories to promote themselves.

Most use Snapchat because it is fun, not because they want to make sure that what they send disappears. In fact, about 80% of users reported that they were aware that snaps could be recovered or recorded by recipients, and that this did not inhibit how they used Snapchat or what they sent or posted. Viewers can save content by taking screenshots of the images (Snapchat notifies the poster when this happens, but what is done is done at that point) and images remain on servers even after they become inaccessible from viewers.

The biggest concern is that Snapchat could result in low worker productivity. Evidence gathered for or against an employee could require Snapchat to provide the data to a court as part of litigation.

Most states are at-will employment states. It would be perfectly legal to fire an employee for Snapchatting while on the clock. If you were using a company phone or company Wi-Fi — your employer could gather proof of that Snapchat. However, if you spend too much time Snapchatting and not working that could be considered firing for cause.

Keep these things in mind so that the only thing disappearing are the silly face snaps you post and not your job.

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