ACAS have recently issued guidance for employers on social networking and managing performance. They point out that the use of social media is allowing many employees to work remotely, which offers unique challenges for performance management. They also say that it blurs the distinction between work and home life, with many employees available at home and while travelling. This has led some employers to put more emphasis on managing the tasks an employee performs rather than managing the time they work.
The fact that ACAS are not saying ‘ban social media at work’ is encouraging. They point out the benefits and dangers and provide advice on the way forward for employers. They suggest that organisations should have a policy so it is clear to employees what they may, or may not, do. They also recommend that line managers have guidelines on remote/home working and that they focus on end-products rather than managing time too closely.
It does seem that some organisations are now realising that social media can be useful in supporting their business objectives and not assuming that it is all a waste of time. The latest Robert Half Technology survey of 1,400 CIO’s from the US showed that 51% of them now allow employees to use sites like Facebook and Twitter for business purposes compared with 19% in 2009. However the survey also shows that 31% ban social media completely at work and only 4% give people complete freedom.
In the UK, a recent survey of 2,500 businesses showed that 48% of them ban the use of social media completely by their employees at work. So there is a long way to go before most employers trust their people to act responsibly. In most cases the ban is introduced because managers fear that their employees will waste hours of work time chatting to friends on Facebook or tweeting away on Twitter. But the common ownership of smartphones means that the individual can quite happily tweet away from their desk without using the corporate system anyway. So what’s the next move: ask people to leave their mobile phones at the door when they come to the office?