More than half of the 1,400 CIOs surveyed block sites such as Facebook and Twitter completely from employee access, according to Robert Half Technology. That's a big number of technology management professionals saying that you should be avoiding online distractions as much as possible.
With the rise of mobile Internet technology, however, the question is whether companies can really thwart online distractions regardless of a company's internal network tactics. What's stopping you from sliding your iPhone on or unlocking your BlackBerry and tweeting all day long while working?
"Using social networking sites may divert employees' attention away from more pressing priorities, so it's understandable that some companies limit access," said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a news release. "For some professions, however, these sites can be leveraged as effective business tools, which may be why about one in five companies allows their use for work-related purposes."
Here are the highlights of how CIOs handle these sites on company networks:
- Prohibited completely: 54%
- Permitted for business purposes only: 19%
- Permitted for limited personal use: 16%
- Permitted for any type of personal use: 10%
At issue are productivity, security hazards such as identity theft via social engineering and, for smaller companies, bandwidth issues.
The best scenario is in blocking these sites on a schedule, allowing for some access during lunch breaks and post-work hours for limited times, so as to not completely exclude social networking practices, said David Kelleher, communications and research analyst at GFI. Kelleher wrote for CIO.com in his article "Social Networking at Work: Fear Not Facebook, MySpace and Bebo?":
""The middle ground monitors all Web activity and controls it on a per user basis when social networking sites can be accessed at the office. Administrators can use Web monitoring software to block access during most of the day except during the staff lunch break or before and after normal office hours. The same software can be used to ensure that any files downloaded or links accessed online are checked in real time for exploits, malware and viruses...If a company wants to make use of a social networking profile for marketing purposes, access should be given to those who will be updating the profile and all content should be monitored to ensure it is appropriate. Running third-party applications should be discouraged.""
Robert Half Technology suggests workers and companies review their policies, communicate them clearly and limit your own use to avoid questions and problems with productivity.
"Professionals should let common sense prevail when using Facebook and similar sites -- even outside of business hours," Willmer said in the same release. "Regrettable posts can be a career liability."