Last week, there was quite a bit of discussion about how some social media web sites, including Twitter, were being blocked for at least some White House staff members. The end result was that people were simply finding ways around the policies by accessing Twitter through third-party clients or using their phones and other personal devices. I’ve been running across more and more companies and organizations that have strict policies about using social media or are even blocking access to various social web sites through the corporate network.
On the surface, it can seem like a good way to cut down on goofing off, but the reality is that many people use these sites to get information and, increasingly, to communicate with customers. While this can be a problem for some employees, it can cause a devastating productivity issue for those of us who do most of our work online.
I worked for a company a couple of years ago that blocked IM. We could use IM within the company to communicate with other employees, but it was blocked for any IM outside of the firewall. I like using IM for getting quick answers and checking in with people. While this may not sound like much, it was a big inconvenience for me because I worked with many consultants, contractors and customers who were not employees of the company. It didn’t take me long to find a way to bypass the corporate policy by using a new and nearly unknown web-based IM client. For me, the goal was to get more done as efficiently as possible, despite the obstacles.
When spending time working remotely and telecommuting, these social tools can be a great way to keep up with co-workers and colleagues. I often use Twitter to get answers to tough problems or find information that I need to do my job, since I can’t just drop into the office of another employee who might have the answer. Blocking social web sites only makes it more difficult for many employees to get their work completed efficiently. Let’s face it, those employees who are spending four hours a day goofing off on Facebook will find another way to spend their time goofing off, and the real solution is to deal with the problem employees, not to use broad policies to deal with a few isolated performance issues. Many employees will simply see this as a challenge to be overcome by finding interesting technical solutions to circumvent the technology used to block the web sites.
How have similar company policies impacted your productivity on the job, and did you find ways to get around those policies?