Does Your Company Allow You To Access Facebook From Work?

The number of people on Facebook has now exceeded 90 million and the fastest rowing segment of these new users are those over the age of 25. As a result, it’s becoming quite common to ask: Will you be able to access Facebook and other social networks from your work computer?

Or should you and your team be banned from access on a company network?

Gartner analysts Anthony Bradley and Nikos Drakos say corporations should not ban social applications such as Facebook, Twitter or social networks in the enterprise.

Their arguments come after a number of financial service companies in the financial services sector have stopped their employees from using such tools at work.

While the number of ways to collaborate with peers online is on the increase from using Microsoft SharePoint to joining online communities of practice, most of this increase can be traced to collaboration tools behind a company’s firewall.

But with Facebook claiming they have more than 90 million plus users online, should employees be able to access their Facebook profile or other online profile from their work computer?

Garnter argues YES and the way to do this according to Garnter anslysts, Anthony Bradley and Nikos Drakos is to create a “Trust Model,” meaning:

  • define how to participate in these online social networks at work
  • define the positive and negative ways to doing this
  • present specific guidelines around such areas as expected online behavior, corporate policies on appropriate and ethical behavior and appropriate brand usage

So what are companies saying about all of this?

Here are the three barriers I hear to opening up these social networks at work. My question is this: how real are these barriers?

  • Impact on Employee Productivity: Employees may spend so much time updating profiles their productivity will decrease. Yes, there are employees who will play games online but there are also employees who will seek out networks to improve their productivity—like joining a network on LinkedIn or Facebook related to their expertise.
  • Impact on Company Network: Let’s say hundreds of employees are running virtual reality apps on Facebook or watching YouTube videos at the same time, are they sucking bandwidth from the company’s pipes?
  • Impact on Company Brand: Employees that communicate online on their social networks need to be aware that their profiles on public social networking sites identify them as employees of a company, so their postings can have an impact on the company’s reputation and brand in the marketplace.

All this points to the importance of designing a “trust model” and set of guidelines before going forward. The bottom line I see is this:
Employees, especially Millennials, are living, communicating and networking online. They will bring a set of digital expectations to their employer and over time being able to access social networks from work will become important to the competitiveness of companies.

Think for a moment about what the world of work wil be like in 2020—won’t employees just assume they can access everything from their PDA/Smart phone—including, of course, learning?

Does your company allow you to access social networks from your work computer? Why or why not?

[tags]facebook, social networking, gartner, enterprise 2.0, new york times[/tags]

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About Jeanne Meister

Jeanne C. Meister is a best selling author of three books, internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker. Jeanne is Partner of Future Workplace, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting organizations in re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne was recently voted by her peers as one of the 20 top influential training professionals in the United States. Jeanne’s name is synonymous with the establishment and institutionalization of global corporate universities. Jeanne is the author of three books, Corporate Quality Universities and Corporate Universities. Jeanne’s latest book is, The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today (Harper Collins, 2010) is in its 10th printing.No information is provided by the author.


  1. David

    Thank you. As a learning development professional servicing a leading financial services organization, I can tell you the tales that convince executives to NOT use this resource are very biased. The same security, productivity, and branding issues exist for any user that pick up a phone.

    A simply defined model, just like appropriate email use, and the notification that “what you do is being monitored” will let folks know the rules of engagement and consequences of violating rules.

    It just amazes me how 99% of the time that when there is an issue, the organization wants to “hold a meeting” or “put you in contact” with the ‘right’ people, to resolve issues, yet chokes off ability to interface with the ‘right’ people (and admittedly, some ‘not-so-right’ folks) on a much larger scale.

  2. Darcy Pierson

    The organization I work at bans sites like Youtube and FaceBook. I tried to get access to secondlife at work to explore how we could leverage it to expand learning and social interaction, but gave up because of all the hoops that it would have required.

  3. Jeanne,
    At Cerner, we are wading versus diving into the social networking culture shift. The reasons for not moving more rapidly are summarized well in your post. That said, our L&D org played a role in shaping the design of the latest version of our internal associate portal, myCerner, and the change is radical. The home page is now an associate’s personal “mySite,” and feels like a cross between a personal LinkedIn and Facebook page. It is built on the latest version of SharePoint, and sits inside the firewall. It is a big step in the right direction. We are big wiki users, and are moving rapidly into the 2-5 minute “how-to” video space (external examples include 5min.com, vidipedia.org, sutree.com, etc.), but again, it is currently all behind the firewall. An interesting twist – while we are behind the firewall for many of our social networking initiatives, we are actively looking to license the best external technologies wherever we can, with the intent to “privatize” these for internal use. We are early on the journey, and would be very interested in learning whether anyone else is doing anything similar, and how it has gone?

    Rob Campbell
    VP & CLO, Cerner Corporation

  4. At my organisation we allow employees to access Facebook etc but do not allow the use of video streaming. THis is purely for bandwidth management and is hopefully something that will be overcome soon.

    We actually have a facebook group set up for our Gen Y employees called Club 345. This is used to interact, share ideas and arrange get togethers. It has helped create a real community.

    In addition we also have our own corporate internal portals and intranets that have a number of collaberative features. For example we have Alumni portals set up to support people after they have attended specific training courses. This helps to keep their network going and enables them to share experiences etc.

    Blogging is something that the organisation doesn’t yet understand. They frown on people who have a blog only because they don’t yet understand where the value really is.


  5. Not that I would approve of anyone not being productive at their job, but times arise when you need to use your work computer to access information from a blocked site (like Facebook). There are several methods for using proxy sites to access Facebook, but most of them don’t work. Here are instructions for a better way to do it and it works with all sites, not just Facebookhttp://www.blakebrannon.com/2008/09/03/howto-facebook-at-work/

  6. mark

    My company blocks a lot of sites. But i’ve been looking for alternative proxy sites that haven’t been blocked as well. The site that I’ve been using most recently is http://www.proxyheaven.cn It’s registered in China and has never been blocked from my office. Hope this helps and Good luck.

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