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Block MySpace?

Here's a news flash: There are still challenges facing widespread use of social networking sites within an office setting. That's the gist of a recent survey by Steelcase on the use of social networking, but the tone of the press release announcing the survey results suggests companies should be more willing to let their employees visit MySpace and Facebook during the workday, as a way of somehow improving collaboration and fostering business connections.

We're not talking here about an organization's intranet. This is about employees using their bosses' computers to go to outside Web sites, such as YouTube, that are unrelated to work. What is surprising is not that 50 percent of the companies surveyed discourage or block access to such sites; what is surprising is that 100 percent do not block these sites.

Why do employees need to go to MySpace during the workday? According to the Steelcase survey, the majority of respondents sign onto social networking sites to reconnect with family or friends (82 percent). The most popular social networking sites among these workers include: MySpace (66 percent), Facebook (46 percent) and LinkedIn (22 percent).

Social networking within the workplace is a longstanding tradition (think the water cooler before everyone stocked cases of bottled water in their offices). Sure, mingling with employees just to chat can hurt productivity a bit, but it is also a valuable team-building and morale-building activity. Can the same be said for visiting family and friends on Facebook, or MySpace friends you've never actually met?

Intranets also can be problematic as they relate to productivity issues, but greater control over their use can be maintained by employers. Intranets also are work related, not a diversion to watch a funny video or chat with strangers across the country.

Steelcase suggests that companies need "to think out of the box and ask themselves if rather than blocking these sites, what their takeaways can be. The workplace is as much virtual as it is physical and organizations that embrace this new reality will reap its rewards."

Perhaps, but IT directors worry about their networks being compromised from a security standpoint, or about the bandwidth issues related to downloading YouTube videos. Business unit managers worry about productivity. These are real concerns, and the best way to address them is to block such sites.

kanderberg@comnews.com

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Author:Anderberg, Ken
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:388
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