Social networks at work – yes or no?

At many workplaces, debate rages over whether to allow Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the other usual suspects into the office. This debate can happen regardless of whether access has been granted or not.

The InfoSec Institute shared an article with me that explains the good and bad of pinning, liking, sharing and so forth from nine to five. Written by Daniel Dimov, the article lists the pros and cons in clear language.

Just as clearly, I concluded that this judgement call represents more of a fine line than a black-and-white decision. Where a company places that line will depend on its circumstances – there is no one-policy-fits-all answer.

Advantages to restricting social network access for employees

  1. increase employee productivity
  2. decrease the risk of bringing malicious software into the company network
  3. increase bandwidth availability (since social network use frequently involves watching online video)
  4. prevent identity theft

Every company needs to take reasons 2 through 4 seriously. The first reason listed is more of a judgement call, as Dimov notes:

…a study conducted at the University of Melbourne found out that employees with access to social networks were actually more productive than employees in companies that block access. Dr. Brent Coker, a researcher involved in the study, noted that employees who can reward themselves between the completion of one task and the start of another with a visit to their Facebook or MySpace page are more motivated than the workers who do not use social networks. The study found out that workers using social networks get 9 percent more accomplished than their blocked counterparts. Consequently, it is doubtful whether the restriction of social networks should be considered as an advantage.

As for reasons 2 and 4, malicious hackers will go where the web traffic is, and nowhere is traffic heavier than on social networks.

Advantages to allowing social network access for employees

  1. keep employee morale from falling
  2. opportunities for free advertising
  3. opportunities for team building
  4. opportunities for skill building (like if your job involves marketing or public relations)
  5. opportunities for internal and external communication
  6. opportunities for networking (Don’t discount the power of LinkedIn. Other networks can support business networking too.)
  7. attraction of new employees

Reason 2 is interesting. Dimov writes:

In most cases, employees add to their social network profile the name of the companies for which they work. Thus, each of their friends can see the name of the company…in 2012, the average number of Facebook friends of U.S users at 18-24 years of age was 429, an employer with 10 workers who restricts social network access will lose thousands of views of his/her company name and logo.

One fact Dimov doesn’t mention is the widespread  use of social networks on mobile devices. So, for those of you who run companys and ban social networks from your offices, you don’t need to wonder much why employees keep their personal phones and tablets on their desks.

Dimov delves deeper into his points that I did here. Visit the InfoSec Institute website to read the full article.

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