Workzone: Social media use in workplace - Create a policy, promulgate it
We've struggled with the age-old debate of how we separate the professional from the personal -- now we have to figure out how friendly to be with social media websites in the workplace.
It's become an increasingly tricky question since Facebook has graduated from college dorms into an online tool used by more than 500 million people worldwide. And LinkedIn, a social networking site designed to connect job seekers and employers, has more than 75 million users.
But a recent study on workplace behavior by network provider Cisco shows that employees are logging on after they punch in.
About 45 percent of working millenials -- employees 30 years old or younger -- conceded that they surfed social media sites on company time.
Only 32 percent said they were allowed.
Company policies on social media are the next frontier in corporate concerns, especially now that employee use makes employers susceptible to security risks -- and lost time.
The Cisco study found that 7 percent of Facebook users -- or about 35 million people -- spend an average of 68 minutes per day on FarmVille, an interactive Facebook game that lets users tend a digital farm.
But feeding the cows on your lunch break isn't a great idea. Security experts fear it'll turn into a new front for hackers looking to compromise user information.
"Businesses must balance the need to provide access to collaboration tools with the need to manage enterprise security," wrote Christopher Burgess, senior security adviser at Cisco.
Cisco also found 27 percent of workers say they have changed the settings on their office computers to circumvent company policy.
But many companies still haven't drafted social media policies -- the Cisco study found only 20 percent of businesses said they had policies in place.
With so many different kinds of users, where does a company start?
"Communication, communication, communication," said career coach Suzanne Ferguson of Wilkinsburg. Make it clear what sites and activities are allowed on company time, but remember that there's a balance between allowing some use and letting it get carried away.
Ms. Ferguson worries that an overreliance on social media will take away the value of face-to-face communication in the workplace and that a Facebook message could become the updated version of the classic passive-aggressive memo.
But Ms. Ferguson said her philosophy toward clients was about "being who you are and bringing that to your work," and she encourages employees to maintain social media profiles so more people can see just who they are.
"Social media is a way for us to make global connections in a world that's changing really, really quickly," she said. "But you have to be wise about it, and be calculating about it."
And leave some of it for the weekend.
First Published August 9, 2010 12:00 am