Should Managers Care That Employees Are On Facebook And YouTube While At Work?

from the results-based-management dept

A recent study reported that 6.8 percent of URLs accessed by businesses lead to Facebook and 10 percent of bandwidth goes to YouTube. Of course, as to be expected, along with such a study come the fears that security and worker productivity is harmed by allowing access to such “non-work” sites:

The figures show that IT managers are right to be concerned about the amount of social network use at work. There are two real concerns here: firstly that employees will be downloading applications from social networks and putting security at risk; and secondly the amount of corporate bandwidth that appears to be being used for non-corporate activity.

These fears seem to resurface every once in awhile, especially when some new technology starts to become ubiquitous in the workplace. First, it’s silly to think that social networks would somehow have more security-risking applications to download than the rest of the internet. As for the productivity concern, if you’re worrying about how much time your employees are spending doing “non-work” things, then you’re worrying about the wrong thing. From online shopping to social networking, allowing employees to do “non-work” web surfing while they are at the office keeps them happier and more productive. In fact, multiple studies have shown that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook actually make workers more productive by sparking creative ideas.

Of course, in order to manage this properly, managers must monitor productivity based on concrete, measurable goals — rather than focus on the time spent doing the work. After all, if you’re delivering results, why should your manager care if you spend a few minutes a day catching up with friends on Facebook?

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Comments on “Should Managers Care That Employees Are On Facebook And YouTube While At Work?”

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Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Once again, you’re making a huge, blanket statement with no source. You even admit that you have nothing except maybe personal experience with a company. That’s like putting a thimble in the ocean and deciding that the ocean doesn’t have any fish in it, because there aren’t any in your thimble.

Further, I have worked for and known people who worked for many large companies who didn’t give a shit what their employees did, as long as they met their various quotas. One memorable story even involves a guy watching porn in his cubicle without his boss blinking an eye.

So if we’re making huge blanket statements based off of meager personal experiences, then I’d say that for the most part, companies don’t make harsh plans against Internet usages, or even lax plans against them. They don’t just care at all, according to my personal experiences.

Of course, then we come back to the real world, where many companies do care, some don’t, and they all have varying degrees of passion about those feelings and enforcement of them.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“people being unable to control themselves is the reason company make harsh plans against things.”

So much wrong in so few words.

It’s easy — if the employee is not performing, you fire them. There’s no need for any plans harsher than that — and, in my opinion, anything beyond that make the employer a bad one at best and unethical at worst.

rec9140 (user link) says:

Re: make harsh plans against things

“unable to control themselves is the reason company make
harsh plans against things. no news here at all.”

NO. Wrong.

The reason for the AUP that PROHIBITS from the START:



Is they are NOT WORK RELATED, period. The AUP spells this out and you sign DAY ONE, MINUTE ONE.

Use them and/or attempt to circumvent the blocks of these useless sites is ground for IMMEDIATE ON THE SPOT TERMINATION, No ifs, no ands, no reprieve. YOUR DONE! I will escort you out. Been there, done it, will be doing again.

These time wasting, productivity sucking, in addition to being a host of malware and spyware are not work related, so you have no reason to be on them.

dwarfsoft (user link) says:

Facebook to communicate WITH people at work

Most of the people in our office are on facebook, and are friends. Therefore facebook is used to communicate about social gatherings and the like. How is that different to water cooler discussions with the staff, impromptu meetings, or people who constantly email or sms friends or family?

It all comes back to results. I use chat rooms to talk to friends of mine who may be more knowledgable about a particular area than I am so I can get my results more effectively. It’s all about using your networking to be a more efficient worker. If you are efficient at getting results they should not be concerned with how.

McBeese says:

It's about results

Managers should have a clear understanding with employees on expected results. It should be an ongoing conversation.

If the employee is motivated by social exchange on facebook, so be it. Who cares. As long as the employee exceeds objectives, isn’t doing anything illegal or unethical, and isn’t using up huge quantities of bandwidth, who cares?

Welcome to the future.

Griff (profile) says:

Re: It's about results

How many companies have you ever worked in where the management really did have a real time appreciation of the results that people were achieving. This is a theoretical argument. It might be old fashioned / stupid to say “if they are at their desks and it looks like they are working then that is OK” but it is perfectly legitimate to say “if they are visibly not working then they are not doing what they are paid for.”

If a guy was known to spend 2 hrs a day clearly just chatting at the water cooler when he had urgent work outstanding, you’d expect him to be reprimanded, yet people who are just as wasteful of time in work can do it serruptitiously (sp?) at a computer.

As yourself this. If you called in a plumber and he told you his hourly rate and said he thought it was going to be a 4 hrs job then halfway through you found him sat on his butt watching Youtube on his iphone while the clock was ticking on your dollar, and he had the nerve to tell you that “evidence has shown that this makes me more productive”, you’d probably not give him a glowing reference, to say the least. Now, I wouldn’t begrudge him taking the odd private call, or even dealing with other customers who called up occasionally, but only within reason.

Yet somehow when it’s employees of a “big faceless corporation” the attitude that the management are daft to worry about this sort of thing seems to be the cool point of view here. Crazy.

It’s also pretty galling if you’re a blue collar worker “downstairs” who is very visible if you stop doing what you’re ‘sposed to be doing in the factory (building, testing, packaging a product) and then you go upstairs to the office and it’s clear that all thise desk jockeys are giggling away at a vid of a cat standing up. Not good for motivaton, team cooperation.

Is the bandwidth really a small argument ?

I have worked in one place where Youtube at lunchtime was freely permitted but it had to be rescinded because for those people who DID want to work at lunchtime the available bandwidth had collapsed.

In the same place I use to routinely prune email to stay under an admittedly hueg disk use ceiling. And I’d do this by sorting by size and seeing which large dtuff I could throw away. And invariably 90% of my disk usage was made up of about 2% of emails with rich media attachments sent to everyone because they were amusing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's about results

Of course, the opposing argument is that micro-managing staff rarely leads to good results and can often be counter-productive. There needs to be a balance, of course – *excessive* Facebooking does kill productivity. But watching everything employees do on a minute-by-minute basis and counting every second not spent working at full steam as wasted is a fool’s game.

Your plumber analogy is pretty irrelevant as it’s a one-off job. Most plumbers wouldn’t do anything like that because the hour they waste would be better spent going to another client and getting more money for the call out. It’s a very different situation to somebody spending 8-12 hours a day at a desk and spending the odd 5-10 minutes letting off steam on a social networking site.

“It’s also pretty galling if you’re a blue collar worker “downstairs”…”

A lot of those workers will be getting paid significantly more than the average office admin or customer services rep. I’m also sure that those guys think nothing of going outside for a smoke break or chatting during downtime. An office guy going downstairs and seeing those blue collar standing around “doing nothing” will be just as galling.

“I have worked in one place where Youtube at lunchtime was freely permitted but it had to be rescinded because for those people who DID want to work at lunchtime the available bandwidth had collapsed.”

Not surprising, since they essentially said to employees “you *have* to Youtube during this hour if you ever want to do so”. Very bad planning. Again, moderate usage causes no harm and can be beneficial for morale – moderation is the key.

“And invariably 90% of my disk usage was made up of about 2% of emails with rich media attachments sent to everyone because they were amusing.”

I fail to see how this is relevant. People use email to communicate, and they will forward amusing things to each other to help pass the boring day. This will involve rich media as a matter of course – your additional work is the downside of having actual thinking human beings on staff. Deal with it.

Besides, if your company allowed Facebook, these would be posted on peoples’ walls instead and free your email capacity for more work-related things.

Richard (profile) says:

What about the traffic in the other direction

How much of their “own” time, “own” bandwidth and “own” equipment do employees spend on work. Do any of the managers that whinge about people using work resources/time for personal things even bother to measure that?

The truth is that committed employees will spread their work and leisure activities across the day/week as is most convenient for them. This might mean taking quite a bit of time out of the workday for social things – but then giving even more back in the evenings and/or at the weekends.

Big Mook (profile) says:

Different rules at financial institutions

Since GLBA and SOX came about, financial firms must archive ALL electronic communications. Right now, there’s no way for companies to archive every message and/or chat on Facebook, etc. so the only alternative is to block them outright. In some cases, employees would be more productive if they could use these services to keep up with customers and colleagues, but until someone creates a “social networking” proxy server that can archive everything, it’s going to remain off-limits.

RobIsAGeek (profile) says:

Naive author

This story is very NAIVE, the comment from the article…

“First, it’s silly to think that social networks would somehow have more security-risking applications to download than the rest of the internet.”

is very wrong! I own a computer repair/service company and we get computers in all the time that got a virus while on facebook / myspace / youtube. These sites get targeted by ‘fake ads’ for ‘fake antivirus’ apps and other viruses, due to the popularity of them.

Plus…people get hooked on them and spend all day playing stupid online games (farmville, anyone?). Use an internal message board to plan group outings or internal messageing apps for quick msgs to others in your work group. Limit the ‘fun’ sites to 1 hour a day (can be done with parental control apps or via the server), then they can keep up to date on things, but not have the chance to get ‘addicted’ to the junk!

Qyiet (profile) says:

I am in fact an IT Manager

We run with as loose a policy as we feel we can. We block streaming services because our data is charged by volume, and it is seldom work related. (users can and do ask for work related exceptions)

We inspect and block incomingb malware, viruses and ads (essentialy the adblock addin for the enterprise) and thats it.

If it’s a technical issue.. we deal with it. If it’s a social issue (eg facebook, ebay or just forum usage) that’s the problem of the manager in charge of the employee.

Lisa Valentine (user link) says:

To Block Or Not

Yes, but it’s also dangerous when companies have the knee-jerk reaction of simply blocking employee access to social media apps on the enterprise network. it’s often done out of fear and misunderstanding of the risks.

There’s a good whitepaper on the subject, it’s called , “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”

It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, SharePoint, etc.)

Pass it along to the IT Dept.

Karen says:

Should I care someone is playing when I’m paying them to work? WTH? Block away, monitor and use what’s posted on company equipment at will to weed workers from players. Call me old school but I’m not paying for employees to use work equipment for anything but work. It’s columns like this, that post without fact or citation, that essentially try to tell successful people it’s ok to slack off. BS.

I won’t even delve into work/home boundaries because the author seems okay with people working ALL the time and bringing their down time to work. I wouldn’t expect an employee to work uncompensated. In the same line of logic I also expect them to work at work, when compensated.

Goofing at work is not a perk, it is however, a fast track to unemployment. You know, in the author of this article’s mind, a means to perpetual bliss – where an employee has 24/7/365 to play, uncompensated by me, a person who expects someone to work when I’m paying them to work.

Unily (user link) says:

The use of social media can be used for good in the world of corporate; sharing documents and files between co-workers can be a good use of social media, the only issue with that is that most people won’t do that. Unless they are using an internal social network within an intranet, people will mostly likely use social media for non-productive purposes, which is where efficiency drops.

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