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Should You Ban Facebook at Work?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Facebook use in the workplace is a mind-boggling issue for employers. On one hand, employers don't want to come across as controlling "Big Brothers" who don't trust employees to get their work done. But on the other hand, well, your employees may not be getting their work done.

But from a productivity standpoint, should you ban Facebook at work? And would doing so raise any legal concerns?

Facebook Use at Work

Just how much time are employees spending on Facebook at work? In Oklahoma, state employees (using the state's computer network) made more than 2 million visits to Facebook in a three-month span, according to Oklahoma's Cyber Command Security Operations Center as reported by United Press International.

Though the finding isn't representative on a national scale, it signals a growing trend of employees frittering away a fair amount of time at work on social media. In response, many companies have banned Facebook at work.

If you decide to jump on the corporate bandwagon and implement a Facebook ban, remember that your social media policy can't be too restrictive. It's crucial that your Facebook ban doesn't unlawfully interfere with your employees' free speech rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The actual process of blocking access to Facebook from work computers is pretty straightforward. It merely requires updating your "Approved Sites" Internet settings, as Demand Media explains.

Despite the simplicity of setting up a Facebook ban, employers should give pause to consider whether a ban is even necessary.

A Potential Non-Issue

In a way, this whole "should you ban Facebook" debate may be a solution looking for a problem. According to a study conducted by the National University of Singapore, "cyberloafing," or surfing the Web at work, can actually increase employee productivity.

In the study, the Web-surfing group was not only more productive but also reported less mental exhaustion and a higher level of engagement in their work, compared to those who were given breaks but were prohibited from surfing the Web.

Two other recent studies -- one by the start-up "Big Data" firm Evolv and the other by a Warwick Business School professor -- also found that social networking at work appeared to boost both productivity and retention, reports Forbes.

So before you go willy-nilly with a new Facebook policy, carefully examine your employees' actual productivity numbers. If their numbers are good, your "Facebook ban" idea may actually be a solution looking for a productivity problem that simply isn't there.

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