At the tail end of last year Facebook hit the 1 billion mark for active monthly users. This means 1 in 7 of the entire world’s population, quite a staggering figure. More people being better connected is generally accepted as a good thing but should they be connected all the time, including when they’re at work?
There’s mixed opinion as to the benefits of having access to Facebook at work. Most companies use the social media site in one form or other for marketing, brand listening or just straight up promotion but this doesn’t mean all of their employees need access. Some occupational psychologists claim that taking breaks for a status update or to comment on a friend’s holiday photo can improve productivity. Open minded employers have stated that it’s a give and take scenario whereby a business allows employees time for personal breaks at work in return for answering emails when they’re at home. It encourages workers to merge their job with their lives instead of having distinct separation, more of a work-life blend than a balance.
At the less optimistic end of the scale bosses and business owners claim that Facebook is hugely damaging to their productivity levels. A recent survey by Salary.com determined that 64%, of 3200 people questioned, admitted to visiting non-work related websites. 41% said they visited Facebook whilst at work and 21% speculated that they might spend as much as five hours per week being unproductive. These figures might not be overly surprising on their own but translate into shockingly high amounts of lost revenue. A survey in 2007 by Peninsula, the employment law firm, concluded that social media sites could be costing businesses over 130 million pounds per day. Although today’s employee actually spends slightly less time on Facebook now than they did five years ago it’s likely that the financial loss will be greater as wages have increased over the years.
Many larger companies who have their own IT departments and specialists already block social media sites. Smaller businesses, however, are less likely to have the technological know-how. This could all be set to change with a new broadband service from TalkTalk that offers something similar to the parental controls available on home computers and satellite television. Bosses will easily be able to dial in a number of sites that they don’t want their employees to have access to. This might seem like a negative tactic yet 79% of questioned workers said they wouldn’t be bothered by Facebook being whisked away from them. 4% even suggested they’d find a company more attractive to work for if they took themselves seriously enough to block social media sites.
It won’t mark the end of wasting time on social networks in the workplace, though. The advent of smart phones means the majority of employees who have their heart set on slacking off and poking old school mates will still be able to do so on their mobile. Of course the technology doesn’t just have to be used to block Facebook, it could also be used for sites like LinkedIn and job boards. Interestingly 46% of people admitted to using the internet to look for another job so maybe bosses should spend more time giving employees what they want rather than taking it away.