Employees on Social Networks: To Be or Not To Be…

by Jason Falls |

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Ann Davlin who works at MotoCMS – an advanced Flash CMS and Flash templates provider.

It’s not a secret that many recruiters and business owners use social networking sites to screen prospective employees. According to the survey of 300 hiring professionals conducted by Reppler the most popular online resources for time wasting are Facebook (76%), Twitter (53%) and Linkedin (48%). It probably means that the whole (online and offline) business world considers it necessary to take social networks activity into account and use it for corporate objectives. But there are not so many employers who enable their employees to use these social networks at the working time if they are not engaged in corporate social accounts maintenance: In 2009 Robert Half Technology proclaimed that:

  • 54 percent of U.S. companies ban workers from using social networking sites while on the job;
  • 19 percent of companies allow social networking use only for business purposes;
  • 16 percent allow limited personal use of the web.
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In 2010, Manpower Inc. published a survey of over 34,000 employers in 35 countries and it turned out that three out of four companies have no formal policy regarding on-the-job use of social networking sites. In addition to the fact that social networking sites expose employees’ productivity to risk, corporate networks security and confidential data prove there is a strong need to determine how social networks can influence organizations.

Surely the problem related to the non-purpose use of the web at workplaces is quite hot and is an object for debates. There are numerous pros and cons of on-the-job use of social network sites including:


  • It gives the “bush telegraph” effect.
  • Employees will be well-informed about latest online trends.
  • Organizations with an access to social networks are considered to be progressive ones.


  • It’s hard to influence social networks messages of employees.
  • Occasionally there is a need to invest money into office networks security.
  • Some employees spend too much paid working time using private social network accounts.


  • It is possible to increase labor productivity using this tool.
  • It can be a good stimulation for workers enthusiasm.
  • It’s also a good mean to increase the pleasure employees get during working hours.
  • Using permissions for social communication it is possible to motivate and encourage workers.
  • It can be a strong advantage while searching for new employees.


  • Some public messages on social networks can really hurt the company’s public image.
  • There can be some emotional and moral disorder of staff.
  • There is a risk to infect corporate networks with viruses.

You can also supplement this list with other points which you consider to be important and influential. This ones are just examples that we think will make you think about the harm and benefits from using social networks at workplaces.

As Manpower’s survey states, very few organizations all over the world mentioned that their reputation has ever been impacted as a result of employees’ use of social networking sites at their workplaces. Here is a strict illustration on how little damage was caused by social media websites from the employers’ point of view.

Has your organization’s reputation ever been damaged by employees using social networking sites?

Americas – 11,000 employers from 9 countries from South and North Americas.
Asia Pacific – 7,700 employers from the Asia Pacific region.
EMEA – more then 16,000 employers from 16 countries of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

It shows that the threat of being damaged on the web by your own employees is lower than it’s considered to be. Within the whole world there are only 4 percent of companies whose business interests were negatively affected by the private online communication. Nearly 90 percent of businessmen don’t see any harm in social networks. Probably this diagram will look a little bit different in case of taking into account the employees’ productivity and time which they spend on social networks.

Now let’s get to another part, which can really be more important. This previous diagram was about actual damage, but what’s really widespread is not the damage, it’s the lack of any use from those employees spending their working time on social networks. Official Facebook stats claim that there are more than 400 million users which log in to Facebook every day and what is more important all of them combined spend something about 2 billion minutes a day on Facebook. Do you really think that all these people check their accounts at home after a working day? Nope! They spend their working time to chat with friends and relatives! Unfortunately, nobody estimates the work efficiency before and after such brakes. There are many employees who frankly think that social media communication during working hours relaxes them and even tones them up. This point of view is quite interesting and challenging to make some employers think about enabling their workers to surf through social media websites. But undoubtedly, this question requires a strong regulation.

For example, look at the graph below. Too much lemonade makes you hate lemons. This statement relates to pretty much everything – like eating sweets, watching TV and social media communicating too. So it is possible to find some solution when private communication becomes more of a useful thing than the harmful one for your business (position A). The point is that even if an unlimited access to the entertainment sites would be given to the employees during their working hours after some time general interest towards such form of wasting time starts to fall (position C) .

For example: if employees can use their private Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. accounts at workplaces 30 minutes a day they will be waiting for this time and will try to take maximum advantage of it. Then if they are allowed to communicate on the web for 2 hours a day – be sure workers will do the same as if they have had only 30 minutes (there is no need to hurry up if there is a plenty of officially allowed time). And when an unlimited access to all social media sites is provided people either get bored of this idea very quickly or they will waste the whole working time on the web (however in such case the employee risks to be fired).

So here are several suggestions on what can be done to minimize the threats and maximize the benefits of on-the-job usage of social media sites (as well as other entertainment online resources):

  • Provide an unlimited access to entertainment sites and wait until employees will be tired of playing around on the web. In this case you’ll need a strong network protection software and plenty of patience.
  • Provide an unlimited access to the web but do not let things drift – a constant online activity control is demanded.
  • Allow a free access to the web only during breaks. It will save your corporate network from overloading and employees from time wasting.
  • Another option is to forbid any access to social network sites at workplaces whatsoever. This step will probably reduce company’s popularity among current and potential employees, so be ready for a public dissatisfaction (especially if your competitors are not so strict).
  • Provide an access to different sites for different categories of employees according to their duties. It requires some monetary and labor spending, but it is a very effective optimization tool.
  • Describe all conditions concerning non-purpose use of social networks in the employment contract. This measure will clarify everything for both parties: employees and employers
  • Establish fines for those who use Internet for private purposes. However there is a need to separate different types of employees: those which were and always will abuse an access to the web, those which will react and those who are indifferent to the web. All these people need an individual approach.
  • It is possible to make entering social media sites a some kind of encouragement. The more effective employee is the more time he/she can spend on social networks. It will stimulate those workers who like to relax on the web and will build convenient labor conditions for others.

Probably there are no universal solutions for every single case but there is one good rule of thumb: be useful and don’t harm. If employees follow it then probably they deserve getting some encouragements from the company. A few minutes in social media communities a day can hardly hurt any business but this time will bring a feeling of satisfaction for every worker. But of course it’s all up to you: to allow web surfing during working hours or forbid it. You are welcome to choose your own way of solving the problem of non-purpose use of social media websites on workplaces.

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Ann Davlin is a young inspired blogger who is always open to trying new things. She works at MotoCMS –  an advanced Flash CMS and Flash templates provider. And if you are a fan of web design and social media (like Ann is) you can always follow her on Twitter (@SmilingAnny)


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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).