Why Facebook Access at Work Should Be Blocked

Why Facebook Access at Work Should Be Blocked
There's no doubt about it -- Facebook has people's attention this week. With an IPO going live and public stock trading due by Friday, it's no wonder everyone is getting ready for one of the most exciting public offerings to date. A hot IPO doesn't ultimately matter to IT, but the implications of Facebook's business model do.

How's that? The Facebook revenue model is based on self-serve advertising, engagement ads, and games -- all ways that will let employees waste even more time at work while consuming your network resources. Consider the time-wasting nightmare you might be allowing into your company if you unlock those firewalls and let Facebook in. On top of employees updating their timeline and jabbering about life when they should be working, they are also being marketed to and playing Mafia Wars on company time.

[InfoWorld's Galen Gruman explains the fallacy of business social networking. | Stay abreast of key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter.]

Facebook isn't the only time-stealer in your organization. YouTube, Vimeo, and other sites are black holes as well. Even Twitter, which I use for business purposes only, has been a distraction when I needed to fully focus. I decided to try an experiment and place Twitter on a PC other than the one I typically sit at. As a result, I get more work done with less distraction. When I get a cup of coffee, I might check my Twitter feeds, but my mind stays in the game while I'm at my desk.

Then there's CNN. Yes, you heard me -- news sites can be just as distracting. I can spend hours just clicking from one story to the next, looking at tech articles and entertainment articles. Before I realize it, I've lost 30 minutes.

The social "enterprise" network

Why Facebook Access at Work Should Be Blocked
Some organizations have tried to make social networks work for them by using corporate-only flavors like Yammer, where you can post pictures and announce what you are doing for your business. Even Microsoft's SharePoint has social elements to allow for more company interaction if you use things like the Outlook Social Connector and personal blogs.

Some people would say the use of social technology in business has formed a closer-knit, familylike environment in their company. I've never been a fan of that type of company culture, personally. The problem with having your business personnel act like a family is that it falls apart every time someone has to get fired. You typically can't fire family, no matter how much you wish you could. For example, there's Dave in marketing, who is a little strange at times, but hey, he's one of the family. Now Dave has been fired, which means anyone's neck is on the chopping block next. It's not quite the family you thought it was, is it?

People need to be focused on their job, not on being more like a family. It's true that communication and collaboration are essential, which is why I love SharePoint's many other features. But in my shop, all the social networking pieces get turned off from the get-go.

The (social) problem with smartphones

Why Facebook Access at Work Should Be Blocked
Try as you might to keep social networks at bay, mobile devices let people be in constant connection to their social networking vices over the cellular networks, which you can't block. Still, it's not completely impossible to stop social time-wasting over mobile: You can establish policies that, if enforced strongly enough, eliminate social networks from being accessed on company time. Treat it like smoking: Let employees take a 15-minute coffee/smoking/Facebook break and make them go to a designated area to do it.

Even though the whole BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon sounds like a great idea to save the company money and keep people happy with whatever device they're using, it makes your workplace more difficult to control. If you supply the devices, you can set the policies to lock down those devices. For example, with Exchange ActiveSync policies and mobile device management (MDM) tools you can turn off devices' cameras, Web browsers, and specific apps you don't approve of. It's worth it for companies to provide the device so that you can control it and keep people working, not playing.

When you're at work, you're supposed to work

Why Facebook Access at Work Should Be Blocked
I'm not an old fuddy-duddy, but my start in this business was on Wall Street with companies like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Solomon Smith Barney. There were rules, and those rules were enforced strongly. I wonder what those companies are doing now about social networking sites, tools, and apps. If they held true to form, they are reading this article and nodding their heads in approval of lockdown.

People need to stay serious and focused on their work. Leave the social networking at home.

This article, "Why you should block Facebook access at the office," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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