Should Companies Allow Facebook at Work?

Late last year I was at a dinner with a Board I won’t mention by name. There were roughly 50 people at the event. Tables were pre-assigned and I found myself sitting across from a chap in his mid-50’s whose professional job was an accountant. He worked at a rather large firm as a partner.

And no, I won’t insert any accountant jokes at this time.

About halfway through the meal, the conversation at the table of 10 shifted to social media. Other than Denise (my better half) no one really had any idea of my background or my natural propensity for all things social.

facebookCan you see where this is going?

Somehow, the chatter gravitated to Facebook. Our accountant friend chimed in and said, “The partners and I decided this year to ban Facebook. It’s a distraction and too much of a time waster for our associates.”

At that precise moment, I received a kick to the shins from Denise. I glanced over and read her lips, “Don’t you dare Dan.”

But, the damage was done and I was going in for the kill.

“Dear sir,” I grinned from ear to ear. “I find your decision ludicrous. Do you really believe Facebook — or any social media for that matter — is a time waster?”

I received a look of death.

But I continued, “If Facebook is a time waster, what about lunch breaks or your fitness room?” He did not look pleased. “And surely there are still people who are smoking in your firm, don’t they go outside for ‘smoke breaks’?” I cheekily asked.

And then I went in for the kill.

“Here’s another thing to consider,” I slyly pondered. “Do you provide mobile phones for your associates?”

Our accountant friend sternly said, “yes we do.”

My eyes lit up. “Well, don’t you think your associates are still using Facebook throufacebook_blockedgh their mobile phones now that you’ve blocked it from your network?”

And that’s when Denise changed the subject to Habitat for Humanity … or was it Justin Bieber? It doesn’t matter.

The point?

To anyone that is contemplating a ban on Facebook or any other social media site inside your organization’s firewall. Don’t do it. Wake up. Invite yourself to the 21st century. Enjoy this phenomenon called collaboration.

By banning Facebook and other social media sites you are instituting a draconian if not Orwellian culture of disengagement. You are also preventing the natural act of social business to manifest. Don’t you occasionally receive personal photos or jokes via email? Is there a difference?

Social is the new normal; you are the antithesis of collaboration. You think business is conducted in a cubicle.

Good luck if you do ban it.

I’ll be laughing at you through one of my status updates posted at 10:30am on a Wednesday.


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'Should Companies Allow Facebook at Work?' have 21 comments

  1. 01/16/2013 @ 9:13 AM Joachim Stroh

    Delicious story, Dan. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

  2. 01/16/2013 @ 10:27 AM Roberta Gogos

    Those people/companies STILL exist?! (P.S. An Academy of Management study found that a 10-minute break where workers were allowed online increased productivity more than a similar break away from the computer…) and I’m REALLY curious to see how their social media marketing strategy works with employees blocked from social sites LOL

    Reply

  3. 01/16/2013 @ 1:58 PM Dan Pontefract

    thanks @Joachim, as always

    @Roberta … got a link to the study? I’m curious too.

    Reply

    • 01/17/2013 @ 3:46 AM Roberta Gogos

      You’ll find it on their website: http://www.aomonline.org/ The Academy of Management study found employees who were allowed to use Facebook were more productive than co-workers who were not. Problem is that the study didn’t distinguish between the Internet and Facebook very well.
      On same topic found this: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/01/look_beyond_a_socia_media_presence.html “[these] technologies have taken on a life of their own, creating unexpected benefits in surprising places..[..].. by integrating social platforms into the core and achieving scale, companies can fulfill the potential of social technologies. The result will be improvements in the “informal” aspects of the organization — the person-to-person connections through which work actually gets done. The improvements in collaboration, communication, and connection will contribute to helping the organization meet its goals.” enjoy!

      Reply

      • 01/17/2013 @ 7:29 AM Dan Pontefract

        Thanks @Roberta, much appreciated.

        Reply

        • 01/17/2013 @ 8:54 AM Roberta Gogos

          You’re welcome Dan! And thank you because you’ve inspired my next blog post – will get it up tomorrow! :)

          Reply

  4. 01/16/2013 @ 2:51 PM Chris Osborn

    Hilarious story! I totally related to the kick under the table, the look of death will come to you later and I cna’t help myself, but you’re nuts for believing your employees are not using social media all day, anyway.

    Good grief – what are people thinking?

    Well – the short answer is they probably aren’t. I am continually astounded when I run into people like that, but they are out there.

    Why don’t they SEE the need, power and economic potential of collaboration in social media? Our younger employees get it. Time for the rest of us to get on board too!

    Reply

  5. 01/16/2013 @ 2:52 PM Chris Osborn

    typing lessons needed . . . .

    Reply

  6. 01/17/2013 @ 9:34 AM Maria Wakefield

    There would be much work actually accomplished if people weren’t on social networks all day long. It’s disappointing and horrible for employee morale to see this allowed. They aren’t helping the company achieve anything, but rather holding back other employees and missing deadlines. They are just too “busy”.

    Reply

    • 01/17/2013 @ 9:55 AM Joachim Stroh

      Hi Maria! There are many reasons why people are (mentally) absent from work, social networking being one of them. But before that it was/is the phone, the IM, the email system, etc. – we all have to learn how to use these tools in a productive way, and not, as you imply, in a distractive way. For example, you are using social networking in a productive way, simply by visiting, reading and responding on Dan’s blog! Employees who feel they don’t need to be present at work (or outsource their own work to China, see NYT), should move on to someplace else.

      Reply

      • 01/17/2013 @ 3:39 PM Dan Pontefract

        I’m with @Joachim on this one @Maria … couldn’t have said it better. That stated, I’d be happy and delighted to help you with other examples where it isn’t a time waster but a social business enabler. (be it improved engagement, learning, contacts, productivity, leads, etc.)

        Reply

  7. 01/18/2013 @ 12:10 AM Jillian Walker

    Hehe love it.

    Reply

  8. 01/18/2013 @ 2:12 AM Social networking & the workplace | eFront Blog

    [...] Dan Pontefract’s recent blog post on companies (not) allowing Facebook at work has prompted me to dust off the topic of how social helps companies get the business of communicating, collaborating and learning done – and hence the business of business done! I’d like challenge a few misconceptions: [...]

    Reply

  9. 01/18/2013 @ 9:34 AM Karin Wills

    Maria: I agree with Dan and Joachim on this one. Social Networks are not the reason people are ‘absent’ at work-if people are using social networks throughout the day in such a way that it reduces productivity, my focus would be on finding the reason they are doing so and dealing with that. Banning Facebook will simply encourage the dis-engaged to find other non-productive sources of entertainment.

    Reply

  10. 01/18/2013 @ 10:19 AM Bert sandie

    We have a whole new generation of Millenials who have grown up as Digital Natives that the norm is to be connected to the internet to connect with friends/co-workers, find solutions to problems, perform research, etc. Companies need to lead change in how they view work getting done in this new era and how people work.

    Being connected and leveraging social connections and the information channels they provide when used right is a competitive advantage to a company.

    Wait another 10 years when most of the Boomer Generation has retired and we have Gen-X and Millenials running and managing companies – I see a tidal wave of change coming to many traditional companies.

    Reply

  11. 01/18/2013 @ 10:36 AM Susan Scrupski

    Would love to hear from the unconverted on this one relative to job performance. (You also have motivated me to finish a blog post I have in the queue along these lines.)

    I have to say, however, I have a hard time getting my GenY daughter to do anything on Facebook. She recently got a great job offer and I asked if she was going to update her Facebook page, so her friends would know. She told me, “I’d rather tell them in person.” So, there’s that. I’m not sure the Millennial argument is universal.

    Reply

  12. 01/18/2013 @ 10:40 AM Ned Berg

    I find the whole “facebook/twitter/social is a waste” mentality to be from a very Theory X perspective of human behavior. One can’t expect to get the same level of output from every minute a worker is at their desk. It’s just not realistic. People need to maintain relationships, to feel safe when exploring ideas, and to communicate.

    Reply

  13. 01/18/2013 @ 2:33 PM Jacob Morgan

    Simple and right to the point. I know of a few companies who are in the process of trying to figure out how they can limit time spent on social networking sites like Facebook as well, for example giving a max of around an hour a day to all employees and being able to adjust based on their roles (i,e. sales vs R&D). People are starting to get quite creative around this. However, I haven’t really heard any stories of how Facebook is actually hurting productivity, I wonder if anything like this even exists.

    Reply

  14. 01/18/2013 @ 9:05 PM Dan Pontefract

    Right with ya @Bert

    @Susan – nice to hear that F2F is still an option ;-)

    @Ned – like I’ve said while publicly speaking before, ‘Facebook is the new smoke break’

    @Jacob – seriously? We’re going to put a timer on Facebook site visits? I think access to social is going to become a question in job interviews by the interviewees. When it’s a ‘no’, the candidate will bolt.

    BTW: here is Roberta’s post today – http://blog.efrontlearning.net/2013/01/social-networking-the-workplace.html

    Reply

  15. 01/22/2013 @ 3:09 PM E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » Should Companies Block Access to Digital Tools?

    [...] my good friend, the always inspiring and thought provoking, Dan Pontefract, put together a rather interesting blog post which is just a beautiful story of a conversation he recently had that I could see myself behave [...]

    Reply

  16. 01/31/2013 @ 6:04 AM Human Resource News » Blog Archive » Should Companies Block Access to Digital Tools? » Human Resource News

    [...] my good friend, the always inspiring and thought provoking, Dan Pontefract, put together a rather interesting blog post which is just a beautiful story of a conversation he recently had that I could see myself behave [...]

    Reply


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Dan Pontefract | dp at danpontefract dot com