Social networks have become the lifeline of communication for many a working person across the world. They are the platform that people share with friends and family to catch up on what is happening in each other’s life. People have little time to actually connect in the real world that makes social networks especially important.
Should social networks be banned at the workplace is a rather serious and volatile discussion. It is a question that is being discussed in many management and HR meetings even as you are reading this. Policies are probably being drawn up to be included in gigantic employee manuals but this is something that should be handled with careful consideration, and forethought. It is easy for a business to ban social networks from the workplace but, should they do this without considering the advantages that the experience of being on the sites brings to the company.
To Ban or Not to Ban
According to a report from Robert Half Technology, a whopping 54% of U.S. companies say that they have banned workers from using social networking sites. Some of the reasons typically given by employers for wanting to ban social networks at the workplace are as follows:
- Exposure of company’s computers and network to virus and spyware.
- Loss in productivity affecting the bottom line.
- Affect on available bandwidth to the business.
- Legal Liability
- Leaking of corporate information.
Interestingly a large number of businesses use social networks to recruit employees. Then it seems strange that they want to ban the same sites where they found their employees. Social networks offer an efficient and effective mode of communication that cannot be negated and simply banning the sites would be like throwing the baby away with the bath water.
According to an AT&T a study on social networking technologies, access to social networking sites at the workplace actually increases employee productivity and efficiency. Employees feel that access to a wide and rich source of information on social networks often provided them solutions to problems and also inspired them creatively.
AT &T’s white paper on this subject also showed that 74% of European employers stated the following benefits to allowing access to social networks at the workplace:
- Access to information and solution to problems.
- A medium of sharing knowledge and information between employees, suppliers and customers.
- Basis for better team building and internal structure in the workplace.
An online Nielsen survey shows that 65% of respondents watched YouTube videos at work. And what is startling is that a section of the younger working population said that they were willing to quit their jobs if they were not allowed to access Facebook at work.
Clearly the use of social networks is important to employees and plays a crucial role in their lives and should not be banned at the workplace completely. What is important is to specify how such use may be permissible in the workplace. Employee-employer communications are essential to clarify issues such as how much time may be spent online and that company information should not be revealed, knowingly or unknowingly.
Some experts suggest that having a company presence on social networks, in the form of a group, help bind employees and strengthen the corporate team. It is interesting to note that over 40,000 MySpace groups and 4,000 Facebook groups are either company or employee based.
So the discussion goes on…. What is your take on this subject?
Photo credit The Blogmocracy