social media bytes eat into productivity

2010-03-13 12:34

SOCIAL media are, by definition, supposed to be a social experience. Make a profile and start connecting. Reach out to friends, old and new. Post a profile picture and while you’re at it upload a photo album of your trip to Greece so others can see and comment.

When you’re done with that, look at your friends’ profiles and see what they’re up to. Oh, a friend just logged in too, so now you can chat.

What, it’s been two hours since you logged on? How did the time pass so quickly? You should get back to work.

This is why some employers have banned social media sites – as well as other potential time wasters – from the office.

The only problem is that social media isn’t a fad. Certain sites might have come and gone over the past five years, but the movement towards interactive communities continues and companies are active participants. In fact, having social media skills on your CV is a boon right now, when many of today’s employers haven’t ever logged on to Facebook or Twitter and don’t ­understand what these sites do.

The case against social media
Few employers would argue that social networks are inherently bad, but what makes the sites great (freedom to post what’s on your mind, discuss the day’s hot topics, post silly pictures) is also what makes the sites dangerous for a company. Consider these findings from a survey run last year on policies and data loss risks from Proofpoint:
  • 17% of companies report that they have investigated the posting of confidential, sensitive or private information onto a social network, such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • 10% have taken disciplinary ­actions against an employee who ­violated social networking policies in the past 12 months.
  • 8% terminated an employee for violating a social networking ­policy.
  • 45% are highly concerned about unauthorised information ­being posted on social networks.

Even the most ardent Facebooker can see that employers are justified in being concerned about security breaches.

Factor in the issue of wasting time and you have a viable threat to productivity. Or is it all a song and dance?

Dona Hall works in a commercial real-estate firm where Facebook and MySpace are banned from any computer connected to the network. Sites for shopping and watching sports are also restricted. Yet, Hall points out that employees could use a smart phone to connect to any of these sites and the company couldn’t stop them. She says she thinks that doing so wouldn’t ­address the problem, however.

“As a manager, the focus needs to be on tasked results and productivity, not merely taking the toys away and hoping they don’t find something else with which to play,” says Hall.

Site forbidden
Nan York works for a corporation that has blocked several websites, including Facebook, and her work experience is worse as a result.

“I am not more productive for it. I worked hard for my employer ­before the ban and appreciated having something I really enjoyed ­doing in my few minutes of break from my work,” York says.

“I am a grown-up and take my grown-up responsibilities very seriously – from paying my bills to doing my work. I don’t need stodgy, out-of-touch corporate drones to censure me.” For York, the situation is an issue of trust, or lack thereof, from her bosses.

“They don’t trust their workforce to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate media in the workplace, or to do work when on the job,” she says.

Book Masters Distribution has found one solution, says marketing coordinator Kim Swanstrom. The company has blocked all social networking sites, as well as streaming media and other potentially objectionable or harmful pages.

“As I do understand the importance, it does become extremely ­annoying when I am researching things and am constantly being blocked,” Swanstrom says.

“We try to keep up with what is being said about our books and our company on social networking sites. Our solution has been to set up a community computer in plain sight that has no restrictions.”

Other organisations, such as the Patrick Hoover Law Offices, use social media for their businesses. At Hoover Law, employees and interns are encouraged to access and use ­social media as they see fit because it can help the business.

Facebook has been successful in getting new clients and publicity for the firm. Plus, the organisation can tout its tech-savvy approach to business, not to mention the effect that access to social media has on employee ­morale.

This article appears on the careerbuilder.com website


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