Why you should allow unmitigated access to social media in the workplace

We all read stories in the media about people surfing porn at work or harassing colleagues on the web but most of us (I used to think all of us) understand that this minority of idiots should not stand in the way of the huge efficiency benefits that the Internet offers in the workplace.

Personally I could not even imagine working without access to the web, the information available on the web would have cost many millions of dollars to accumulate and many more millions to store in the pre web days and it would also have taken many days to find what you were looking for. Now with the typing of a couple of words into a search engine all of that is available instantly. There are not many jobs for which this is not a useful resource.

So imagine my surprise when I first went into the office of a potential client and found that sites were routinely blocked from staff and that permission had to be sought to view sites that are not on a permission list. This is not a common approach to controlling internet usage (except in schools) but it does happen and I have found it to be particularly prevalent in local government.

The implications of this are astonishing. Putting aside the impact this must have on staff morale (we don’t trust you to use the web properly) all that efficiency related to the web is not available to people in these organisations. This is one of the key drivers of increased productivity in the last decade and these organisations are switching it off because of some misplaced fear that their staff will go wild in a web induced orgy of time wasting! I am sure this passes for good governance in some circles but I wonder if any real cost benefit analysis has ever been carried out.

For us the frustration is that, even in some more enlightened workplaces, there are routine blocks on elements of functionality that are essential to successful use of web 2.0.

In designing our new look site (to be released next month) we have looked at the best technology available to help people get involved in consultations. The site will include video, photo galleries and more active content to ensure that people have an easy and enjoyable interface. A problem we face is that many of our clients will be faced with a site that has blank areas because their firewalls deliberately block active content.

We have decided that the key is to provide the best web technology to the user as it is them who make the client’s consultations work. However, it gives us the unenviable task of selling a site that to many of our target clients will have ‘dead areas’ where the functionality is blocked out by an IT policy conceived in the age of the dinosaurs.

Photo Credits: David Wall

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