Last week Cisco released their annual Connected World Technology report. I'll include their infographic at the end of this post, but the basic jist was that young employees want access to social media at work. They want it a lot, even in many cases instead of a pay rise.
"The growing use of the Internet and mobile devices in the workplace is creating a significant impact on job decisions, hiring and work-life balance," the report concluded. "The ability to use social media, mobile devices, and the Internet more freely in the workplace is strong enough to influence job choice, sometimes more than salary."
I first wrote about the report via my Technorati account, and in sharing it in a few places some of the feedback rather shocked me. A large number of people in the CMI's various social media communities were adament that social media access should be banned at work.
There was a nice repost to this kind of attitude by Dave Meerman Scott, suggesting that banning social media access is the first route on a path to a crappy workforce. As you can probably imagine I'm firmly in favour of social media at work, but I'd like to spend a minute expanding on why that is.
So, should social media be banned at work?
I am going to answer with a firm no. Here’s why.
1. It increases productivity, not decreases it. An AT&T study in 2008 revealed that social networking access actually increases productivity at work. The report cited the tools ability to increase individual knowledge and collaboration between teams as key benefits of using social media at work. I've lost count of the number of times I've learnt something new via social media, it really is a no brainer.
A similar study was done by the University of Melbourne management school with similar results. Social media use allows employees to take a break, recharge their batteries and jump back into work with renewed vigour. Here is Dr Brent Coker discussing his findings.
2. Banning it does not work. Just like the prohobition failed to stop alcohol consumption in America, banning social media access at work will not stop your employees from accessing it. The lesson from the prohibition was that people had already cemented their liking for alcohol, so trying to remove access to it simply would not work. It’s fair to say that social media use is well cemented in modern life, and the Cisco study shows just how important it is to employees today. More and more people have smart phones now so it’s very easy for them to circumvent your firewalls should they choose.
3. You use it when it suits you. An increasing number of companies are using social media to recruit people. They’ll advertise on LinkedIn for instance, or have a Facebook page for potential recruits. So they’re clearly looking to recruit people with high social media savvy, yet as soon as they enter the workforce it is taken away.
4. Show me the trust. Likewise, during the recruitment process a company presumably hires someone because they’re suitably impressed by the candidates skills, abilities and attitude. To then suggest to that same employee that they cannot be trusted to manage their own social media usage so as not to affect their work performance seems a strange about turn.
Now suffice to say there will be some professions where this does not apply but even then it is debatable. My girlfriend is a nurse for instance and it would seem odd for her to be using social media whilst on the ward, although if she were stuck on what to do being able to tap into a national/international 'marketplace' of other nurses for advice would be useful I'd have thought. Likewise one corresondent suggested that shop floor staff have no use for social media. On the shop floor perhaps, although an increasing number of shops now offer web access for customers to order online if items are not in stock in the store, so social media is hitting the shop floor an increasing amount.
I’d love to hear your take on this, do you ban social media at work? Leave your comments below (oh, and here's the infographic for you)