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What are the benefits of opening the door to social networking in the workplace?

3 min read


This post was written by Mirna Bard, a blogger, speaker and consultant. She serves as the social-media chairwoman of the Orange County (Calif.) chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and she teaches social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social-media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: Should businesses restrict the use of social networking during work hours?

  • All employees should have complete freedom to surf the Web, including social sites — 42.94%
  • Only some departments should have access to social networks — 41.72%
  • All employees should be prohibited from using social networks on company time — 15.34%

If employees are allowed to use social-networking sites during work hours, they may be among the few lucky ones. Many companies are still hesitant to allow employees to engage in social networking while at work, citing fears of lost productivity, brand damage, security risks and leakage of confidential information. These are probably the same reasons 57% of the SmartBrief readers who took the poll said some or all of a company’s workforce should be prohibited from using social networks at work.

My two cents is that the same businesses that are prohibiting the use of social networking are the ones that have not embraced and adopted the changes caused by social media. It is best to show your employees you trust them and let them spread their wings because they are your brand champions — your No. 1 influencers. If you can trust employees to run and help grow a business, surely you can trust them to be online.

With the right social-media guidelines in place, as well as some training and awareness, companies can educate their employees on proper social-media usage and encourage them to network responsibly. By allowing all employees the freedom to surf the Web and use social media, as favored by about 43% of our readers, companies will experience many benefits.

Here are a few other rewards of allowing employees to access social networking on company time. Such access:

  • Empowers employees and boosts morale
  • Shows you trust employees to act responsibly
  • Increases knowledge of social media
  • Extends brand awareness across the Web
  • Provides access to intellectual capital
  • Facilitates problem-solving
  • Speeds up the communication process
  • Casts a wider net for talent acquisition
  • Showcases company culture and values
  • Helps a social-media strategy thrive

What are some other risks and benefits of allowing employees to social media in the workplace?