According to the survey by PR agency Lewis Communications, of the 2,000 employees they spoke to, 83% said there was some sort of restriction designed to prevent them from accessing social networking sites. Of those, almost half said they suspected it was because their bosses are worried that their business’ reputation is at risk – despite the fact that 95% reckon they had ‘never’ posted anything detrimental about their company before. (Although we’d argue they may be underestimating: MT’s own highly scientific research notes at least three ‘OMG totes hate boss lol!!!’-style status updates on its feed in the last 24 hours).
Do the employers in question have a point? We’ve all heard about the cases where companies’ reputations are besmirched by ill-advised social media use (usually Twitter) – remember Habitat’s brush with PR disaster a couple of years ago? But there’s an opposite argument, too: by not allowing staff to access social networking sites, businesses risk not being able to see (or respond to) what people are saying about them online. Which is arguably worse.
That’s not to say there’s no argument for controlling access to Facebook. The survey in question doesn’t mention productivity, but a previous study (admittedly done in 2009) by IT research firm Nucleus Research showed that allowing Facebook in the workplace reduces employee productivity by an average of 1.5%. So perhaps the ‘ban it’ lobby has a point.
Although it’s worth pointing out that technology has moved on since then: these days, smartphones mean chances are that even if you ban Facebook, employees will still be able to access it. Er, lol?