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Blocking Social Networks: Phones Instead

Chris Hambly's picture
Submitted by Chris Hambly on 7 September 2011 - 10:52am

I received a tweet this morning from Michael Greer, a Public Relations Specialist it read Sharp rise in Facebook and Twitter blocking at work and pointed to an article on The Telegraph. Michael knows full well that this is a subject that interests me through various conversations we've had over the years. I've seen a fair few clients over the years who do in fact block access to social networking sites, and in some cases in businesses which are ripe for their employees to become brand ambassdors.

I'll go out on a limb from the start and state that blanket blocking social networks is plain silly, it's actually more than that, I'd say the practice, to an extent, lacks vision, it lacks awareness, it lacks education. However, there may well be an argument for blocking access in some very specific circumstances, not all businesses do require, or have potential for their employees to need access to social networks, perhaps air traffic controllers might be one example.

The argument put forward in The Telegraph is weak. The article is based on research carried out by a security firm that states:

"53 percent of managers are now concerned about employees using social networking websites at work".

First things first I'd like to see the research and see exactly how the questions were framed, which companies, what size, what markets etc. Naturally research is prone to very large deviations depending on the variables. Secondly, it may be in the security firm's interest (very likely) to have a very high percentage of concern to fix.

Aside from this dull dazzling, and somewhat sensational headline, there is most certainly a need to research thoroughly the "issues" or "benefits" (which are copious in quantity) of adopting, or allowing and actively encouraging social networks in the workplace. There is a need for managers and I'd even say board members to get their hands dirty and fully understand the implications of going one way or the other.

The stance we take at SMiB is that education is essential in these matters. With appropriate education and consultation a company can make an informed decision and in all cases the absolute minimum should be a social media policy. In very few cases have I found a business to have a social media policy in place.

Social media policies do not prevent the possibly of hacking, or machines becoming infected with malware (one of the concerns mentioned in the article) but they do provide a line for employees. When an employees knows what they can or cannot do the "tension" is somewhat alleviated, everyone knows where they stand. 

Couped with this a business needs to think very carefully about asking their employees to work flexibly, at home, in the coffee shop, if they then isolate social tools while on site. There are huge staff moral and management issues surrounding this argument. In addition, if access is blocked on networked machines employees will simply turn to their 3G mobile phones and access the social networks regardless, even with a no phone at work policy this will still take place and does.

social networks blocked

Stuart went on to say:


"Facebook has been stopped in the Civil Service for at least 6 years due to their use of websense."


And there is more, having tweeted "do you use your phone for social networks while at work?" this came in from :

phones at work

And Rachel Clarke who works in the digital industry stated:


Aside from needing some of the tools to complete our work we as humans need social input, we all do! There is literally hundreds of research papers which time and time highlight that workforce productivity is increased when we have social input. Nice quote here "compared to when she has no social ties with her co-workers, a given worker's productivity is significantly higher when she works alongside friends who are more able than her, and significantly lower when she works with friends who are less able than her".

So let me throw it open to see what you feel about the subject, and as one of my tweets said "have you been affected by social networks being blocked at work?

Have you? - please do share your thoughts and comment below.


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