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You can’t do what at work?

March 19, 2010

Social networking is a huge part of daily internet use. Blogger Bob Hazlett created a slide presentation in 2008 showing some social networking trends.  Facebook, twitter and myspace are growing everyday. Odds are that most people where you work have an account with some social networking site. They probably jump on their accounts during work to update their schedule, coordinate plans for the night and many other things. However, a 2009 study showed that over 50%e companies currently ban Facebook and twitter. One of the largest groups that bans social networking is the United States Marine Corps. This censorship is wrong and here is why:

Throughout the work day people are exposed to hours of work behind a desk, working with people, or whatever their job may call for. Rules about mandated breaks for employees varies from state. People need these breaks to hit an internal reset button.  People also need mental breaks throughout the workday. Social networking allows for this break. Attention span is becoming shorter and shorter. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2007 had a patent filed for an instrument to deal with attention spans. The need to alert people of their shorter attention spans is part of the paper submitted to secure the patent. Another aspect to this that if a person is too focused on one thing for an extended period of time it can cause physical and mental problems. People need small breaks away from what they are doing so they can gather themselves before continuing. This can be seen in study habits. To tackle five chapters of text all at once is an overwhelming task. Instead, a student can take one chapter at a time and allow for a small break before continuing to the next chapter. The same is true of someone at work. A break allows for a person to reflect on the most recent happens of the day. A presentation may have just been given and the break is an evaluative time for the employee. What is so wrong with a person using social networks as this small break?

There is nothing wrong with using social networking sites. The sites can be used for legitimate reasons and the employee should be allowed to use it. One positive thing that social networking can offer is an increase in interoffice communication. To use a pop culture reference, in the movie The Proposal, when the lead female character, who is an editor in the company, is on the move a message is sent to all the employees, who automatically get back to work. In this situation the social networking is a positive thing. Also, many of these sites have a built in calender or one is available as an add-on. This gives employees the opportunity to have both a hard and virtual copy of a time schedule. Say an employee makes an appointment with a client and puts it in the planner at their desk. The planner is forgotten and the employee has to remember all the information necessary to prep. With a virtual calendar available through these sites the employee logs onto the networking site and has all the necessary information at the ready. Probably one of the most important things that social networking can do for an employee is help make and maintain professional contacts. A clear example of this came in one of my college courses. The professor through her searches of different blogs came across a gentleman by the name Nassar Weddady. Had her employer, California State University San Bernardino, not allowed use of social media then Nassar could not have been given the opportunity to speak with my class.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these sites so I argue leave the employees alone. If an employee is doing nothing illegal then their privacy should be respected by management and others in the company. Access to social networks is legal so do not but a scarlet letter to it. I concede that there will be those employees who will try to take advantage of the access to the social networking. Handle these cases individually so one person cannot ruin the situation for all. This would be unfair. Would you like tighter regulations because someone down the hall disrespected the rules? Of course not. To many restrictions on employees is not good for office morale. Give the employees access but make sure the rules are understood. People value their jobs, now more so than ever, and reasonable rules will be respected.