Should you ban SocialNetworks in the workplace?

Should you ban SocialNetworks in the workplace?

According to a recent survey of a 1,000 working adults, the average Brit in full time employment admitted to spending up to 1.5 hours per day on socialnetworks whilst they were supposed to be working.

That equates to 7.5 hours per week or nearly an entire working day with the most common times for switching onto socialnetworks at work being between the hours of 10am to 11am and 3pm to 4pm.

Bad news for employers if this is indicative of the rest of the UK who could be spending a large chunk of their working day on socialnetworks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

So, is it as cut and dry as having a blanket ban on all staff accessing socialnetworks on their desktop computers at work?

There are some advantages to allowing your staff to use these socialnetworks, but these can seem fairly tenuous depending on the size and indeed the type of your business.

SocialNetworks at work: Advantages

Ok, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that socialnetworking is having a detrimental effect to productivity in your business.   But there could be benefits:

  1. Morale boost – A happy workforce is a productive workforce and all that.  Perhaps allowing staff to access socialnetwork sites such as Facebook at lunch will boost their morale and increase their productivity for the rest of the day?
  2. Free marketing – If they are commenting on socialnetwork sites such as Twitter or Facebook about what a great day at work they are having, perhaps this will entice others to come and work for you?  They may also be able to gauge opinion through something like LinkedIn on a particular business topic which may help you?
  3. Form relationships with customers – Every business strive for good relationships with their customers and socialnetworking can be a fantastic way for your employees to create that strong bond.

SocialNetworks at work: Disadvantages

Unsurprisingly, I feel the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages of allowing staff access to socialnetwork sites:

  1. Wasted time – Let’s be honest, you employee people to work, and if somebody feels they have enough slack in their working day to go on socialnetworks and build a farm, play poker or ‘like’ their friends pictures, then they obviously need more work or need to give more focus to the work they already have.  Or if people are moronic enough to moan about their job through a socialnetwork like Facebook or Twitter, then are they really the kind of people you want in your organisation?  If this is happening in your organisation and in order to ensure that your staff remain on task, social networking must be banned.
  2. Smartphones – Oh dear.  You’ve blocked the relevant URLs on the staff’s computers and now all day you see people’s heads buried in their iPhones updating their status on socialnetworks or tweeting about the imbecile they’ve just encountered on the bus.  Without wanting to come across as an evil dictator and banning this entirely, perhaps you can advise your staff they can access socialnetworks at lunch or in designating breaks?
  3. Viruses – There are an increasing number of scams that are popping up on socialnetwork sites that can increase the chances of a computer being targeted for an attack.  Some of these scams obtain personal data from the computer that is accessing the site and this could spread throughout a network.
  4. Opinions – Some employees will go on socialnetworks and air their opinions about the company or their colleagues.  This can cause friction in the workplace and again have a dent on productivity.

SocialNetworks at work: Summary

So, should the use of socialnetworks be banned? As tempting as accessing socialnetworks is, it comes down to restraint and focus in the workplace, something some staff don’t possess.  Just as bosses are savvy to workers pressing Alt + Tab as they walk up to their desk, they are becoming just as wise to their staff wasting the day away on socialnetwork sites on their smartphones.

Undeniably, programs like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and push notifications on Facebook increase the temptation for a crafty glance at socialnetworks every five minutes.  My advice would be to allow these socialnetworks to be available, but only for restricted periods during the working day.  You may also wish to put together some social media guidelines for people to adhere to.   Here is a good example from the Ford Motoring Company, should you need a couple of pointers.

Workers will then be fully aware that their use of socialnetwork sites is always being monitored and as long as they stick to the guidelines then all parties should be happy.

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