Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Is Facebook a waste of Time?

That's how it is being billed to employers, who are increasingly blocking access.

The TUC have taken a sensible line on this: general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Simply cracking down on use of new web tools like Facebook is not a sensible solution to a problem, which is only going to get bigger. It's unreasonable for employers to try to stop their staff from having a life outside work, just because they can't get their heads around the technology. Better to invest a little time in working out sensible conduct guidelines, so that there don't need to be any nasty surprises for staff or employers." bbc news(1)

Some HR consultancy firms are takling a more alarmist approach "Workers who spend time on sites such as Facebook could be costing firms over £130m a day, a study has calculated. According to employment law firm Peninsula, 233 million hours are lost every month as a result of employees "wasting time" on social networking. The study - based on a survey of 3,500 UK companies - concluded that businesses need to take firm action on the use of social networks at work. Some firms have already banned employees from accessing Facebook. Mike Huss, director of employment law at Peninsula called on all firms to block access to sites such as Facebook. He asked: "Why should employers allow their workers to waste two hours a day on Facebook when they are being paid to do a job?" He said that loss of productivity was proving a "major headache" for firms. bbc news(2)

I actually think they are both wrong. Facebook helps workplaces be more productive and innovative. A good starting point for explaining why would be the social life of information; a great book which explains why informal socialising within the workplace is the key not only to culture and motivation, but also to innovation; for instance as people pass on the implicit 'dark arts' of the job in pubs (or donut breakfasts at IBM was their example) more often than meeting rooms. Someone told me recently that there are 11,000 employees at the BBC on Facebook. That's of huge value to the BBC I would guess. Imagine they had to pay to build their own social network instead to encourage cross-fertilisation of ideas. I was at an innovation day at a major bank yesterday and one of the questions asked was why - having spent a whole day looking at trends like social networks - they were banned from using it themselves from work? What if they launched something in that setting - would they need to go home to view it?

Even if you run a call centre, the enlightened ones know that the secret of motivation and having a feeling for the culture is workplace friendships. there was a study recently which showed that the two values employees value most highly are integrity and work-life balance. And the irony is that they are the two things employers most ask people to compromise.

I did a search on Facebook for Mike Huss and (unless he is the Michael Huss listed as having no friends!) couldnt find one in the UK of the right age and employment background. Lets keep looking though, it would be brilliant to catch him with a random and perhaps slightly flirty friend request from an absolute babe (ie one of our friends), that he answered in his lunchbreak :J

1 comment:

speed* said...

Well, draconian attitudes never really helped anyone. It is interesting that the American Intelligence services have decided to create an internal Social Network for their spies (agents) the rational was simple: In their business that relies so much on sharing information and 'tipping' each on intelligence the US intelligence services failed miserably to communicate before and the result was 9/11. In order to avoid a repeat of bad business they decided to set up their own 'spy network'. If it is good enough for spies why shouldn't be good enough for Trevor and his mates in the office supply business.