By Daniel Dimov
In Part I of this two-part blog exploring the pros and cons of social media in the workplace, I explored the advantages of restricting social media access for employees. In this second part, we explore the disadvantages.
Disadvantages of restricting social media access for employees
There are seven main disadvantages of restricting social media access for employees; namely, the (1) decrease in morale of the employees, (2) missed opportunities for free advertising, (3) missed opportunities for team building, (4) missed opportunities for skill building, (5) missed opportunities for internal and external communication, (6) missed opportunities for networking, and (7) the attraction of new employees becomes more difficult.
Decreasing the morale of the employees
The main disadvantage of restricting social media access for employees is that the employees may feel oppressed by the employer. This may affect employee morale and satisfaction from their work. In this regard, Ann Cavoukian, a privacy commissioner for the Canadian province of Ontario, noted that blocking of social networks in the workplace is a mistake. She also said that “It’s like waving the proverbial red flag in front of your staff – it’s almost a challenge to them to find a way around it.”
Missed opportunities for free advertising
In most cases, employees add to their social network profile the name of the companies for which they work for. Thus, each of their friends can see the name of the company. Taking into account that, in 2012, the average number of Facebook friends of U.S users at 18-24 years of age was 429, an employer with 10 workers who restricts social network access will lose thousands of views of his/her company name and logo.
Missed opportunities for team building
Social networks allow employees to know more about each other. It may lead to a better cooperation between team members which, in turn, will improve the team’s performance. Social media also gives team members the opportunity to communicate on a personal level. This may bring them closer together. Moreover, social networks may be used for organizing team building events. For example, Facebook has a comprehensive system for event scheduling. The organizers of events in Facebook may not only post information, including audio and video content, about the event, but may also see the users who are going to attend the meeting or not.
Missed opportunities for skill building
In the past five years, there has been a steady increase in the users of social networks. As a result, effective skills in using social networks are a must for anyone willing to practice certain professions, such as PR and Marketing. Allowing the employees to use social networks may serve as a valuable training for them.
Missed opportunities for internal and external communication
Communication between employees, and between the company and its potential customers, is very important to the success of any business. Social networks provide excellent opportunities for internal and external communication because it is more interactive than traditional means of communication, such as email and phone.
Missed opportunities for networking
Business networking allows the employees of a company to know what other companies are doing and obtain information about recent developments in the company’s field of activity. A business network can be very well supplemented by an online social network. Through an online social network, the people who have met in person will be able to receive more information about each other. The most prominent business social network is LinkedIn.
Making the attraction of new employees more difficult
Many potential new employees may get to know that the company restricts social media access for employees. Some of them may not apply for a position at the company because they may consider the restriction of the access to social networks as a form of oppression.
The restriction of social networks at the workplace has both advantages and disadvantages. The decrease in the productivity of employees seems to be an often cited disadvantage. However, a recent study has indicated that employees who have access to social networks may be more productive than employees in companies that block access. While it is debatable whether or not the restriction of social networks increases the productivity of a company, it is certain that the use of social networks may be a source of malicious code. Consequently, the restriction of the use of social networks at the workplace may be considered as a preventive information security measure. It should be added that doing so may not only limit the risk of getting viruses, but also protect the employees from identity theft. As many know, the results of an identity theft can be catastrophic for both individuals and companies.
The restriction of social networks has several disadvantages as well. One of the most important disadvantages is that some employees may feel oppressed as a result of the restriction of social networks. The decreased morale of the employees may then negatively affect their productivity. Besides, by not allowing employees to use social networks, the employer may deprive himself of free advertising that employees would otherwise make using social networks. Moreover, the employer will also miss opportunities for team building, training the staff in skills related to social networks, developing internal and external communication, and networking. Last but not the least, the restriction of social networks may have a negative impact on attracting new employees.