Recently, we've seen a spate of reports of employers blocking the use of social networking sites at work. With one estimate suggesting that sites such as Facebook cost UK employers over £130m a day in lost productivity, this is perhaps unsurprising. But the response from unions and technology commentators has been less …
At the end of the day, you're paid to do a job and not to f*ck around on social networking sites on the companies time. I only get time to post on the reg because I get to work early in the morning, the rest of the day I actually have work to do. I only personally know of a couple of companies near to me who have no site blocking (or monitoring) in place. Both of these companies have staff who spend more time mucking around on the web than doing their work.
Of course, outside of working hours, or at lunchtime, I don't see any reason that these sites should be blocked.
Your here to work, not turn you mates in to zombies or what ever the kids are doing these days. Bah.
Have you punched in yet? No Christmas coal for you me laddie.
Very well written article.
Recently one of my IT colleagues, against my advice, blocked facebook access from work. There was such a backlash that the block was removed within days. I've noticed several times that the internet access summaries show facebook to the the second most accessed site after our own organisational website.
But you highlight the tricky dilemma: risk disgruntling employees by blocking, or risk loosing productivity by allowing. Personally I think it should be allowed generally, as in theory any employees not getting their work done should be noticed by their line manager anyway.
If employers made life easier ...
... then as the author concludes, we wouldn't want to escape onto a social networking site.
If your bosses are busy wasting money, wasting your time or generally de-motivating you; then why not help then waste time and money and get a little motivated at the same time - motivated to improve your social life that is.
When a company makes an effort to listen to me and is genuinely interested in what I have to say - even if they don't act upon it - they get much more out of me. When this stops and I'm treated as nothing more than a code monkey, then I find other things to do.
Like writing comments on the Register. I have written a few lately so you can guess which "space" I'm in right now!!
I'll be honest, I got bored reading this article...but how can employers be expected to tolerate the use of facebook by employees planning their weekend frivolities? If it were directly related to business networking then fine, but in the main the use of facebook by the masses isn't...so it'll stay banned where I am and rightly so!
Luddite or eminently sensible?
Social networking sites encourage topical gossip.
Within the workplace, topical gossip includes the doings of colleagues, customers and suppliers.
Now if someone at work is just updating on what s/he did last night at the clubs, this should not be an issue. Just another variant on personal email which is O.K. in moderation.
However, dissing your colleagues and customers in public should be strictly no go - from home or from work.
Certainly this should be discouraged anyway, but allowing it from within the workplace implies a degree of support by the company.
Nowhere in this article did I see any facts about WHY these sites were being blocked. Just an implication that any company blocking this access is backward and 'luddite'.
However it is likely that staff are being indiscreet in public.
I suspect policing this is harder than scanning all outgoing emails, so blocking access is a logical step.
'Social networking sites' have a lot of commonality with Usenet - and I reckon you will find most corporate networks block or restrict acces to News servers, and there are policy statements which ban any postings which can be identified as coming from a company because these can be interpreted as a statement of company policy.
Looked lonely, possibly because s/he hasn't been out much recently :-)
Universally in favour
"On the other hand, where businesses claim to be universally in favour of innovation, this is a recipe for hypocrisy." - Uh?
Universally as in "I don't care how much that new technology costs and whether it will help me, but I will embrace it because I am a clueless moron with no capacity whatsoever of thinking by myself except on issues whether where to get a I (heart) wikipedia tattoo"?
Let's invent an artificial working hemorrhoid (tm Dave Barry) and go around asking the "universally in favour of innovation" whether they are really, really interested in pluggin it on their butts.
Can't comment on Facebook, but Orkut is quite popular in Brazil, and it is really amazing the amount of time people waste on it. It's like a giant, ever-muting gossip magazine-cum-big-brother where anyone can enter. I wonder if the inventors of this kind of drivel will ever be judged by crimes against humanity.
we are not machines
The problem with offices is that middle management are universally crap. They have the need to micromanage the lives of their workers, in some cases even upto the point that they dont want workers to go out drinking during the week.
The simple fact is this, if you can do your job while enjoying facebook what is the problem. Im a network admin and spend half my life watching a blue bar go across the screen or waiting for reboots, I would rather spend the time on facebook or chatting to users than sat there looking at the screen scratching my ass.
At the end of the day, if you spend too much time on facebook, it is your workload that will increase and it is your job that will disappear, on the flip side, if you see the company as treating you as an adult and letting you manage your own time, your productivity increases naturally as you see yourself as important to the company.
Those fools who say "its my companies time", "the company pays me", "the company owns me" GET A LIFE!!!!
Actual uses for facebook at work
A few of my friends are allowed to use facebook at work...... because it's part of their job. They are people that work in agencies, finging people for jobs. They use it as a tool to help hunt down and contact people they wish to put forward for jobs. They also use it for scheduling meetings with companies. So there you go, actual in work hours reasons to use facebook.
As an IT bod, i would have to say i can't really think of a reason to use it for my own job. Contacting friends to help me sort out a crashed server? Getting everyone at work onto facebook so i can talk them through problems without having to use a phone/remote desktop tool/email/large house brick?
Is it so hard to track how much work people do that you need to ban this kind of site from being accessed? I mean, come on. If they are slacking off on t'internet then you can bet that their work is late or not up to scratch. You don't need to crack down on internet use if you are a decent manager. Of course, finding a decent manager nowadays is quite difficult. Maybe i should try facebook...........
Paris Hilton, the ultimate icon for slacking off work
Waste of time
I always find it amusing how you can read the comments on articles like this and know who the employees are and who the employers are.
Personally, I don't have a Facebook account (or an account on any other social networking site). There are two reasons for this. 1) I prefer talking to people directly, so I converse with my colleagues if I want information/gossip (I'm not even that much of a fan of e-mail). 2) I'm usually too busy living my life to spend time going on a site to talk about what I plan on doing with my life.
But, should the likes of Facebook be banned? Obviously it's a massive drain on productivity, but how often does someone go into work and work solidly through the day non-stop? Everyone needs distraction, and I think Facebook can provide that. Employees could be updating their pages while their brain mulls over a problem in the background. I find taking 10 minutes here and there during the working to day to read various articles helps me solve issues and complete work far more quickly than working non-stop through the day spending half of it spacing out staring at the screen. So maybe it can be a useful tool to relieve stress and boredom in work.
But, if employees are going to be using Facebook on company time, essentially getting paid to do it, shouldn't the comany be allowed to see what is being said on those profiles? Should the execs be given access to their employees profiles so they can monitor what they are saying? They can ensure no bullying of fellow employees takes place or nothing bad is being said in the public domain about the company or its customers.
In companies where it is frowned upon for spending time on Facebook, surely the employees and employers can come to some form of agreement (and saying you can just use it a lunch-time I don't believe is enough) which will allow the employees to continue updating their friends & families with their goings-on and alleviate the concerns of employers about what is being said. As for production, as it has been said, the managers should be able to detect who is not being productive. That is part of their job after all.
So ultimately,no, I don't think it should be banned. But employees should just show some restraint. You certainly shouldn't spend more than, say, one sixth of your day on it (perhaps even less). If employers, ban it, they may as well ban other sites that can take up employee time that is non-work related such as news sites (typing this post has taken 5+ mins away from me actually working, for example). And if news sites are banned, where will the employees get there Paris Hilton gossip for the day?? Such a thing would certainly be a morale destroyer for many of us wage slaves!
The problem at my company is not moderate use of Facebook (and other "social networks"), because it's anything but moderate - some employees are spending almost their entire working day mucking about on them. Admittedly, they're generally the lowest level of management and marketing people, but as the company is still functioning despite their lack of productivity, it begs the question why we can't lay off a good number of them and hire some desperately needed developers and sysadmins instead.
(written on his lunch break I'll have you know ...)
... of "hey, this is new so we *must* embrace it because we're all for innovation": http://dogbook.ca/ and http://catbook.ca/
More 2.0 crap
Obedience to management isn't some sort of fad - management is supposed to be the mechanism that keeps people focused on the bottom line - output that makes money. Innovation will always be judged by its likely effect on that bottom line (at least it will by companies that stay alive) - innovation is not pie-in-the-sky it is a hard-nosed search for the product of tomorrow.
This happy-clappy workers paradise 2.0 isn't new - matrix management failed in the 80s, co-operatives failed in the 60s. Of course management crap that fails is immediately forgotten so it gets replayed every few years. Banning facebook isn't the answer - people either have work to do and get on with it or you have a problem:
1) They don't have any work - you are paying them for no reason
2) They have work but are not doing it - you are paying them for no reason
Strike a balance
I work at an academic institution, so our network is in constant use 24 hrs a day. The powers recently instituted a packet-shaping policy where traffic to and from MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, et al. are given a lower priority between 0800 and 1800. Response times are so low that people generally get bored waiting and crack on with more sensible stuff. Despite announcing this change, most people aren't even aware of the policy and think "Facebook is really slow". This is simultaneously network- and social-engineering, and is subtle enough to avoid a backlash from the users.
Almost ten years ago we had an employeer who played net games as much as he could. In those days we tracked the modem bill carefully and saw a patern of certain games based sites being accessed. He even left the sites open overnight - we had to shut it down to stop the modem connecting all night!
A quick addition to our in house DNS server and the sites suddenly "dissapeared" from the internet. I think he spent an hour or so try to connect then got back to work ;-/
Needless to say is a small business *everyone* knew about it - everyone had access to root etc but he was he only one who could not work out what had happened.
If people have excessive amounts of time to waste on Facebook, then surely the problem is that they aren't being allocated enough work. So either their management or the business process is at fault.
Me, I'm waiting for a recompile..
New technology.. old scam..
Skiving is still skiving whatever the enabling technology.
Cluetrain in flower?
Didn't the cluetrain manifesto promote/predict something like this about a decade ago?
Well, they predicted something like this, including the clueless management response.
The real problem is that faecebook (et al.) encourages trivial exchanges rather than ones which might be indirectly useful to the business/market. Inserting ads is no answer, because despite all the hyperbole, it doesn't benefit the users (or their managers) at all.
I dare say that what cluetrain really builds upon is the idea that the company and its market both benefit from a free exchange between workers and customers. All very well, but if all those people are doing is 'pretending' to be vampires and werewolves, it's hard to see faecebook as other than a procrastination enhancer.
What's missing is a way to be on a social networking site 'in the role of' worker or customer. Yeah, you can be a 'fan' or a 'friend' but how useful is that?
The faecebook forums (scattered all over the place) which might be a place for useful exchange of knowledge, information, ideas, feedback etc. tend to get bogged down with endless discussions between christians and atheists, regardless of the actual topic of the forum.
Then there are more sober sites like LinkedIn, whose slogan might as well be "Making Social Networking Boring". Nobody 'hangs out' on LinkedIn because there's nothing useful to do there.
I guess we just have to wait for the next iteration of social networking sites. Faecebook does a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong. I'm confident that something useful will evolve in social networking, but banking on 'the best of what is on offer today' seems to be foolish.
A better policy would be for enlightened management to encourage controlled experiment with these sites, perhaps even make their own app. If workers realise that management are also watching the timestamps on their newsfeeds, they may behave themselves.