Comment: Facebook use at work deserves a ‘like’

Facebook use shouldn't be banned in the workplace. Picture: Getty

Facebook use shouldn't be banned in the workplace. Picture: Getty

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IN ONE of the quickest and most unqualified retreats in recorded history, Ryder Cup officials last week backtracked on efforts to ban social media from golf’s greatest competition later this month at Gleneagles.

From a complete prohibition on audio and video capture throughout the event, match director Edward Kitson is now calling for “plenty” of selfies. Punters are being encouraged to take photos of pretty much whatever they choose and upload them to the likes of Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Photography and video will only be off limits during play at any hole – a caveat aimed at ensuring the competitors don’t get distracted.

It will be interesting to see how the latter is enforced, but as for the rest, it’s just common sense. Officials should have realised from the get-go that banning the use of social media by a quarter of a million spectators would be about as effective as King Canute’s command to turn back the tide.

And so it should be in the workplace, where too many employers still take the view that staff on social media are naughty time-wasters.

Americans rank among the most active social media users, but recent research from the US found that even though companies are increasingly using these channels, more and more are also blocking access at work.

It’s a difficult mindset to justify. Social media is a fact of life in the workplace, and it is a two-way street – no use in just pushing stuff out there if you can’t respond to any activity that arises as a result.

There are some strong arguments for allowing personal use at work as well. Many today use their own devices – phones, tablets, etc – while doing their job. So restricting access on equipment owned by the employer is again just a Canute-style irrelevancy.

There is also a raft of evidence which suggests a high correlation between social media use at work and increased staff morale. Cutting access completely is not a good approach for firms interested in keeping their best employees.

What’s more, people will always take breaks while working. Does it really matter if they’re checking their LinkedIn network or posting a clip on Vine during a few minutes of downtime?

The risk is that a few minutes stretches to half an hour, perhaps more than once a day. It’s the productivity conundrum, and many remain obsessed with it when debating the merits of social media.

But as each new wave of communication has hit the workplace – telephone, e-mail, text – sensible firms have developed practical guidelines for their use. Like any other tool, social media is open to abuse, but only Canute would attempt to keep it at bay. «

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