The Debate Over Social Media At The Office

The Debate Over Social Media At The Office

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1.Yes, I Blog at the Office

And why not text and tweet, too? An employee at a high-tech start-up says he’s entitled

iPhone? Check. Calls? Sure. Text messages? Yes. IM? Of course. Blogging? Trying. Facebook. Certainly. Twitter? Occasionally

Why wouldn’t I do all these things at my job? I work at a high-tech start-up and you’ve got to keep up with the rest of the world even if you are, as I am, a soccer dad with two kids, a busy wife and a hectic life

I’m 46, the second-oldest person in my company. I know my twenty-something colleagues do even more stuff online and with tech toys than I do. So if I need to, of course I handle personal stuff at work. I surf for news on the web. I check in on friends and family on Facebook. I read tweets. I’ve even posted to my personal blog, which is about politics and midlife concerns. And, yes, while I’ve got the kids trained not to call or text me or their mother at the office, I’ve arranged a lot of stuff by phone, text or chat for their after-school activities

We’re a small company, so we all work together, mostly in one open space. We didn’t get around to buying a fancy office phone system and getting one now makes no sense. We all want to carry just one cell – the hottest model, of course – so we all use our own phones for both company and personal business. We communicate with each other by texting, IM, Skype calls and chat, Facebook – you name it. We do this rather than getting up to talk to each other sometimes

Our shop, as a result, can be a quiet place, though if you walk around, you see people have many different windows popped up onscreen for all those applications. And their smartphones are humming, and that next text might be about a date. But it could also be about a customer or a product.

In our office, people Twitter just to get random thoughts off their minds. But our firm also taps social media to get its message out to the public. So when I’m standing behind someone and I can see his computer screen,

I really can’t tell if that Facebook page is his own or the company’s.

Have we had problems with anyone slacking off, using technology for personal business or breaching security somehow? Not that I know of – and I would, since I’m also our company’s HR guy.

2. Hello? You’ve Got a Job to Do

This company has pulled the plug on Facebook and Twitter and is on the verge of banning cellphones too. A senior company executive explains why.

Like most senior executives in the credit management company where he works, when this man started out, there was just one telephone in each department. It sat on a supervisor’s desk. If you had an emergency, you took that call on the boss’s phone. Now, as I stroll through our operations, everyone has a phone on their desk or nearby.

So why does everyone also need a personal cellphone at work? Why shouldn’t we ban them on the job?

We’re seriously considering it. We barred access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. We don’t give smartphones and PDAs access to our network either. But people can use their cellphones to get on social media sites on the job – and to me, that makes cellphones a workplace issue.

We already have some rules and we talk a lot about common sense practices with cellphones and other personal electronic devices. We want to trust our people to do the right thing; we’re not cracking down on moms with sick kids. But that approach isn’t working.

We let tellers know they’re dealing with the public and it’s rude for them to be on cellphones.

We still get complaints.

We tell managers and staff to turn off devices when they’re in meetings. They still interrupt.

We run big service centres where our people must handle high-volume customer contacts in an exacting way and they can’t take personal calls on duty. We know from monitoring and direct observation that, in fact, they do.

Yes, productivity is a concern. Yes, supervisors are weary of squabbles over intrusive cellphone chatter. But here’s what’s most critical for us: we handle something dear to our customers – their money. We can’t make mistakes. We’ve got laws to obey. We need our employees’ undivided attention. Not long ago, I got a reminder of the security woes these devices create. I returned an upset customer’s call, which she took on her cell. She asked me to hold on as she put her cell on her desk and finished a conversation on her work line. As a result, I overheard an earful of confidential information as she spouted off the names of clients, their addresses, sums they owed and products delivered by her firm. Employees are just too casual with cellphones. We’re not stuck in the past. But the only way we can let people know we’re serious, and really discipline hard-core offenders, is by instituting a uniform policy banning cellphones.

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