Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Governance using social media in the work place

The debate
There is currently a great deal of debate, not to mention dispute, surrounding the use of social media within the work place. From outright banning of all social media sites, to an open policy allowing their use, or somewhere in between.

The general reason given by employers who ban social media sites is that they lead to a decrease in productivity. Employees who have access to social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, will allegedly waste valuable time on such sites, rather than their day job.

Employers need to be forward thinking
Many organisations are adopting social media sites as part of their long term marketing strategies, so it does seem rather short sighted to ban their use. How are employees going to learn to use such sites effectively, and build the necessary relationships if they are banned from using them in the workplace. If you are networking through social media sites, then you really need to be using them during working hours.

To quote David Wilde, Chief Information Officer at the London Borough of Waltham Forest 'For managers it can be difficult to know what exactly their employees are doing. But the organisation needs to be outcome-based, and I don't think we should be using technology to prevent access to social networking sites. If there are staff performance issues, we should address them directly'.

The solution
The solution then is to address performance issues as they arise. There are many reasons why an employee may not be productive, and placing the blame on their use of social media sites may be to miss a more fundamental issue. Blaming social media usage for a loss of productivity is a very blunt instrument to find what may be a complex problem. Lack of training, lack of confidence, bullying and domestic problems can all have a negative impact on an employee's productivity. Compared to these, social media usage seems trivial.

Social media boosts productivity
However, contradictory to the popular conception of social media sites lowering productivity, recent research has revealed that in fact they can increase productivity. Studies have ranged from suggesting that merely surfing the Internet can boost productivity, to suggesting that the specific use of social media can boost productivity.

With appropriate staff performance policies in place, there is no reason why an employer cannot allow their employees access to social media sites. If an employer is using social media as part of their networking or marketing strategies, there is far less of an excuse to banning such sites. What is needed is an open-minded and progressive attitude to their use, rather than the blunt instrument that is banning.


  1. Well said that man .... However, my understanding is that some employers are banning the use of social media sites, during lunchtimes for example, as they "take up too much bandwidth and put a strain on corporate systems"

  2. That's a fair point, but should be capable of being overcome by having employee stagger their lunch breaks (which they should do anyway to provide cover). If only half of the employees are using such sites at a time, then this should alleviate the problem.

  3. and another thing ........

    With the increased use of "SmartPhones" the notion of reducing efficiency by allowing access to social media sites is a joke. It reeks of socio-economic inequality ... Only those who have the phones can use these networks during working hours those that dont suffer (shuts up and gets off soapbox)