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In our company we do not bother much about people using social networks such as Facebook. But I am realizing that people are misusing this now. They are engaged in it more than the real job for which we are paying them.

I understand that banning Facebook completely may not be appropriate. But then if we keep allowing it, people will keep misusing it.

What is the middle path we should adopt so that employees do not backlash and everybody accept it?

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    Hey user5377, could you clarify a few things? You say "I am realizing that people are misusing this now" -- is this everyone, or just some people? How are you deciding it is being misused (is work not getting done)? Also, who is the "we" you are referring to? – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 7:24
  • Yes, I can see work is not getting done. But you are right not all people are addicted, but I would say majority is. Also If I ignore more people join the majority group. So often I have to go to their desk and ask (to let them know that we are watching but in a gentle way) how are the things going on, any help is required etc (in a very polite way). But this strategy is not working much. Also "we" means the management. – user5377 Sep 11 '13 at 7:44
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    If your employees are not getting their work done, are you sure it is due to Facebook? If you are 'politely' reminding them they are on the clock, offering help, and they still aren't getting the work done, I think you may have a bigger problem (one that banning Facebook would probably fail to solve entirely). – jmac Sep 11 '13 at 7:49
  • I used Linked-In for legitimate uses all the time. For example, tomorrow I am in off-site training and looked up the instructor to get a better feel for his background. – enderland Sep 11 '13 at 21:08
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    @JoeStrazzere If the company has any technical staff, banning the StackExchange family would produce a massive productivity hit. – glenatron Sep 19 '13 at 17:32
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Some shops are very aggressive with their proxy servers, using it to ban everything they deem "not work". If they spend enough time with it, they can reasonably effectively lock down their employees' computers. It's not perfect, but it can send a powerful message to employees: we are watching, and we don't want you to ever do anything on our computers that isn't work.

The downside is the demonstrated lack of trust, the vigilance required to block enough sites, and the need to have procedures in place to unblock sites when a legitimate site is inappropriately blocked.

And it's a slippery slope. If they ban Facebook, they probably should ban LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Stackexchange. The list of potential "not work" sites is enormous.

My current company takes this approach. They block a wide swath of sites to the extent that even personal mail (such a Gmail) is blocked. At one point, they had blocked a subset of Google - making it impossible for some of the technical folks to do research that was part of their job. It was a pain to get approval to remove that block.

Over time, people have figured out how to get around the block, such as using their own devices (phones, etc) to use any social media site they prefer.

But other companies rely on a different approach. Rather than make an ever-growing list of which sites are blocked, they allow the employee to use the computer in any way they decide, but hold them accountable to get their work done.

I strongly favor the latter approach, particularly for knowledge workers. This was the approach my company used to take, before we were acquired by a much larger, more bureaucratic company.

My sense is that as a Manager, I don't want to be telling individuals what they should and shouldn't be doing every minute of every day. That's micromanagement, and it doesn't scale.

Instead, I want to set the bar for what I need them to do, and when I need it done. I help set the expectations, give them the tools and framework to be successful, then I look at their output, rather than what they did along the way.

I like to treat people as adults, as professionals, to expect good things, and reward achievement. Those who cannot control themselves and abuse this trust get poor reviews, and get fired if they don't subsequently improve.

An "appropriate usage" policy, a little bit of training, and some common sense seemed to work well for our smaller company, without the heavy-handed approach that the current larger company prefers.

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    Really great answer, just want to add that for many knowledge workers, web developers specifically, social media sites are a standard part of the everyday work process as integration with them as become more and more widespread and sophisticated. – Andrew Bartel Sep 11 '13 at 21:04
  • My last employer was of the "use the proxy aggressively" school, and an additional problem was that sometimes the answer to a problem was on a blocked site (like a blog), but we needed that answer now not next month when a request for a proxy change might begin to get looked at. If you didn't have a personal device, you had to wait until you got home that night to look it up. – Monica Cellio Jul 14 '14 at 15:43
  • I implemented a proxy when I was a network administrator over a decade ago on a trial basis... At the start it was just watching where people were going to gauge if there was a problem or not... we started filtering in a matter of days... Facebook was barely a blip on the radar. We had a serious problem with people watching porn at work. If the person had an office with a door, they hit porn at least once a day... Caught us all by surprised we were expecting or purchasing and warehouse people to be on Facebook for long hours... – RualStorge Jul 14 '14 at 17:16
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    I once worked at a place that blocked "blog" - any and all blogs, and ended up using my phone's hotspot for non-restricted internet access - it ended up being fine with my boss (since I was using it to look up relevant, work-related stuff), but the company was so large that there really wasn't anything that could be done about it either. I ended up leaving the company, and I believe that it came down to the fact that they did not hire employees that they could trust to get work done instead of slacking off, and no amount of policing could fix that. – user2813274 Dec 12 '14 at 4:20
  • I like the last two example and your superb examples. I hope in the near future this way of for dealing with social media will work in larger companies too. – llrs Sep 5 '15 at 16:34
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Your problem is not Facebook, your problem is that your managers are not managing their employees well. Rampant misuse of Facebook is definitely a problem, but what is it you hope to achieve by banning Facebook? I think you would be better served by figuring out what it is you want to achieve and look at how best to address that. I suspect that part of that solution will be cracking down on Facebook, but just cracking down on Facebook alone will only move the problem elsewhere.

Pull your managers together, determine how to best achieve your goals, and hold your managers accountable for meeting those goals.

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Banning social media is excessive, promoting appropriate use policies isn't.

Inappropriate use is chatting up politics, parties, and personal relationships on company time. Appropriate use is discussions of business problems.

Anyone that has browsed around programming discussion groups has seen groaners like 'Can anyone recommend a C++ programmers book?', but they have also seen efforts to compare various C++ garbage collection libraries. One can surmise that the first questioner probably shouldn't be in the group and the second one is been around long enough to care about various alternatives. In the context of appropriate use, if someone asks a question and you would be a provider of solutions via your employer, it's appropriate for you to answer the question. Similarly, if you're an insurance agent using Excel and you're stuck, getting technical help is a good use of the network.

Your employer is effectively scored on how well it uses social media collectively. 'Radio silence' is ill-advised. It is probably a good idea to have social media meetings at appropriate intervals - company-wide this might be every six months, within a marketing group it would be weekly, and within a technology group monthly. Be prepared for the rest of your team to see what kind of invective you've been posting on company time, and what kind of doghouse you're in as a result. There is a saying that if the airliner interior is a mess is this a reflection on the airframe maintenance? Similarly, if the company's social media is inconsiderate, does this correspond to telephone and email customer and vendor communications?

A lot of people post things that kill their job prospects. They can similarly damage their employers marketing prospects. To that extent they should be prepared for peer review, and see what it looks like when their public face is viewed with respect to their employer's public goodwill.

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I hope this is more of a internet connection bandwidth usage issue and not some type of clock punching.

Management needs to focus on the work product getting done. This seems like a better use of their time.

You may want to consider the advantages of people using Facebook. For some, it is an efficient means to stay in touch with friends and other things. Sure, you can demand they do it on their own time and away from company computers, but consider some of the ideas in the book Scarcity. Is it possible that being away from FB too long is actually going to distract your employees? This could be a problem when work requires high levels of concentration. It's like being on a diet and thinking about nothing but food.

  • I suspect your first point is an overly optimistic perspective... but +1 regardless. Scarcity is the opposite I guess. – enderland Sep 12 '13 at 2:17
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Unless your business relies on people being on Facebook and other social networks to promote your products and services, I don't see any point in allowing access to social networks.

At my previous job, all traffic went through proxies. Facebook and other social networks were never allowed to begin with. So no problems there.

Banning Facebook would be appropriate. The employees are getting paid your money to do a job.

A middle path would be to let everyone know Facebook will be banned in a week due to misuse/abuse. (If the use of Facebook declines that week, it's optional for you if you want to enforce the ban or not).

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    What about lunch breaks? That is the employees down time, relaxation time, some people like to do this through social networking, they aren't being paid to work then. Have you considered that factor? Other than that, good answer! – Rhys Sep 11 '13 at 8:16
  • Some filtering proxies allow time-based rules - so you can block sites like Facebook when people should be working, but allow them in designated break times and out of hours. Still more sophisticated ones allow a limited quota of "personal time" per day - eg. trying to go to a time-blocked site will (on confirmation that you want to) start a 5-minute period when you can do what you like, and deduct 5 minutes from your quota. Once your quota is used for that day, tough. – Julia Hayward Sep 11 '13 at 9:16
  • @RhysW: We had a public computer in the common area with unrestricted access to the open Internet. Otherwise, useful sites like the Stack Exchange was not blocked though! – Kent Sep 11 '13 at 10:54
  • @Kent you might want to add that in to your answer, maybe not word for word but a bit describing how to overcome the lunch time issue could be beneficial. Have you considered how well that solution might hold up for much much larger workspaces? – Rhys Sep 11 '13 at 10:57
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    While I do get your point, I'd like to point out that there are some legitimate uses for FB & social networks in a workplace. For example, a co-worker of mine receives requests for web access from people all around the world. These requests have to be individually approved. To ensure these are real people (vs. bots), the first thing he does is look for them on social media like FB, LinkedIn, etc. – GreenMatt Sep 11 '13 at 13:02
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I have another point of view on this one. Lets say that you ban Facebook, chats etc etc.What will you earn?The ones who don't want to work will find another way, like playing solitaire... I personally use Facebook like taking breaks from what i am doing. I cannot be 8 hours over something without a break and be 100% productive. Generally speaking. For sure there are people who can do it, but I think that the most cant. In addition, banning sites like stackoverflow may have a negative impact if your job requires internet searching.

  • We are not banning stackoverflow. – user5377 Sep 11 '13 at 9:09
  • Stackoverflow was an example. maybe facebook or other sites would be useful. – Tony Sep 11 '13 at 9:11
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    @user5377 your question also said 'or other social networks' so i think the part where Tony mentions SO is in relation to the negative effects you would get from blocking certain sites – Rhys Sep 11 '13 at 10:49
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The possible issues I'd see

Use for work

Direct

This is probably most obvious one. You might be marketing guy needing to promote your product or company on social networks, you might be HR looking for people on LinkedIn. Finally you might be a developer implementing social APIs. In all of above cases you need need full unrestricted access to social networks to do your work.

Indirect

You might not need access to the social network itself, by you might need access to a website which only let's you log in with social network.

Work related

Even though not directly used for work, you might get information about new releases, warning about exploits, status of service etc. through social network (Twitter in particular). For example tweets like this: enter image description here

It's demotivating and ineffective

By implementing such a restriction company shows, that they don't trust their workers to do their job. It's also ineffective, as workers will have mobile apps for each of the social networks on their phones. Which usually won't be under company's control.

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