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Should you allow Facebook at the workplace?

To ensure employee productivity, weigh in on social networking before adopting any policy
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To ensure employee productivity, weigh in on social networking before adopting any policy.

Is Facebook a bane or boon to productivity in the workplace? The answers have been as varied as the 8.3 million Filipinos who currently use the social networking website in and out of their offices, schools and homes.

But to business owners and entrepreneurs, the key may lie in how well they manage their
employees’ use of Facebook so that most of their attention is actually on the work at hand—and not the jobs on Farmville or Mafia Wars. [Learn how to effectively use Facebook and Twitter for your business here]

According to data released by Facebook in December 2009, the Philippines is now the eighth-biggest community represented on the website, posting a staggering 2,046.7-percent growth in a 12-month period.

This overwhelming presence is also felt in workplaces across the country. Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in the United States, discovered that over 54 percent of companies have already banned social networking in the workplace. Out of the 1,400 chief  information officers interviewed by Robert Half, only a small portion a llowed Facebook usage during the day, while some only allowed “Facebook breaks” during designated times. [See a five-step guide to zero-marketing cost here]

Reasons for banning

Organizations have had multiple reasons for implementing such a ban. The common argument against social networking is the obvious loss of productivity during the day—hence the term “social notworking.”

With all the features found on these sites like messaging, information sharing and games, it provides a whole gamut of distractions for the employee. [Read about Facebook and Twitter as tricky marketing tools here]

What makes a site like Facebook unique is that it constantly provides the user with a reason to constantly check the site for the latest updates, since new content and user activity is broadcast at a frenetic pace.

Social networking has evolved as well, making access to information ubiquitous. It is  commonplace to see employees access these sites through third-party applications  installed on their mobile phones, allowing them to circumvent existing workplace bans.

With some employees accessing Facebook for two hours on average a day, this could  have a big impact on the company’s bottom line. With these sites being a persistent medium for interpersonal communication, IT managers also cite their inherent security risks.

A number of cases have been reported involving employees who have leaked sensitive  company information through these channels. Even “status updates” found on Facebook and Twitter are also deemed as potentially harmful mediums that may compromise a company’s secrets. [Read about Filipino businesses using Facebook and Twitter to get new clients here]

Some local companies have also discovered employees airing their grievances, disclosing project details  and preempting major product announcements through status updates.

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This has led to countless written memos, and some companies have made it grounds for dismissal for the violating employee.

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