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Social Networks The Internet Businesses

Study Shows Social Networking At Work Is Good 94

Ostracus writes "Companies should not dismiss staff who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo at work as merely time-wasters, a Demos study suggests. Attempts to control employees' use of such software could damage firms in the long run by limiting the way staff communicate, the think tank said."
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Study Shows Social Networking At Work Is Good

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  • At least (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @07:10PM (#25562611) Homepage Journal
    For those of us who have a lot of waiting involved in our jobs, social networks encourage multitasking(and help us enjoy our coffee high) by keeping us busy while the code is compiling or the tests are running.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @07:16PM (#25562681) Journal

    I'd be interested in what they'd say about slashdot use at work and whether they'd rate it as a net gain or loss for the company.

    Though I suppose it would depend on how the user used it...

    • by snowraver1 ( 1052510 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @07:23PM (#25562759)
      For me, work comes first. If there is alot of stuff going on, I might not even look at /. all day. Most days there are natural breaks in the day that I use to surf the web. Some days things just run smoothly.
    • Last week's talk..:

      Boss: You're a really informed guy...

      Me (thinking): " OMG he got me at /."

      Boss: ...and I'm pretty sure you read a lot in your house to keep this up.

      Me: hmmm... er... of course!

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Most IT staff read slashdot, and have few friends. Ergo social sites are okay to block. ;-)
      (It's true for my company... but to be fair most facebook apps are probably security nightmares.)

      Our local IT group is going the extra mile for us though. With the new faceless corporate data centre laying the proxy block-down, we now get wireless routers on an extranet for personal browsing. That's pretty damn impressive actually, and just in time to enjoy my new iTouch.

    • Keeping up to speed on industry developments is a valuable part of a lot of IT jobs. Slashdot serves quite well at providing a weathervane on what's important and what's not.

      I find stuff like instant messaging to be invaluable - or would if my current employer was a bit more tolerant. At a previous job it was massively useful as a collaboration tool - there's just a whole realm more communications that are possible, when you're not 'interrupting' someone to ask. Especially when said person is a friend, ra

  • Water-cooler talk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @07:17PM (#25562687) Journal

    Before computers, people engaged in "water-cooler" talk, where much of it was social. But often if you want assistance or approval from other sections or departments, you had to make friends with people by "shootin' the breeze". It's not much different in cyberland. They often say business is about who you know, not what you know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cashman73 ( 855518 )
      The difference between the 21st century workplace and the 1950s workplace is that the water cooler got a lot bigger and there are far more people drinking out of it,...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vux984 ( 928602 )

      The difference is that the people at the water cooler are people who are likely to be peripherally related to your job, with expertise relavant to your job.

      Sure SOME people will have some 'work-related/work-useful facebook friends' but most of the people I see at work on facebook are just goofing off with their boy/girlfriends and drinking friends planning their weekend/party/whatever.

      I'm not saying it can't happen that you've got a guru facebook buddy who helped you fix a perl script... but that's the exce

      • Also, I'd find this study (or this survey???) far more persuasive if it had been sponsored by some organization like The Chamber of Commerce, and not sponsored by a social network mostly composed of other Web2.0 Social Networks Companies/Entrepreneurs/VCs.
      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        Since I didn't work a frontline user facing job at my current employer going out drinking has been one of the biggest ways for me to connect at a personal level with a good chunk of my user community. Basically if you aren't a bigwig or a social drinker you're probably just a lookup field in our ticket system as far as I'm concerned. These types of connections help the business function better as people tend to work better with those they have a reason to like. So while you might think of planning this week
      • Actually, I have a lot of people on my 'social networks' that have a broad expanse of relevant expertise. Mostly because my friends are (mostly) people I've met through University. I have been able to make a post about a technology I knew nothing about, and over a couple of days accumulated a selection of very valuable primary sources to learn about.

        So no, not _specifically_ 'tech support' level - "I am getting error xyz with this code snippet, anyone know what's up?" responses, but often eliciting useful

    • had to make friends with people by "shootin' the breeze". It's not much different in cyberland.

      You can say that again. I don't even need to meet someone for them to be my friend. I have over 1,000 friends and I never cry myself to sleep.
    • by NateTech ( 50881 )

      Sometimes it's about what you know about whom.

  • I would suggest using internal tools like Alfresco, Sharepoint, Jabber, Wiki, whatever to increase social interaction within the company without the need for sites like Facebook.

  • I don't know if one radio station in Australia will be endorsing continued use of Facebook during working hours - a presenter recently forgot to read the news [news.com.au] because they were too busy looking at Facebook.
  • Social networking can encourage employees to build relationships with colleagues across a firm

    Employee from dept A: Dude I drank so much jager last night i'm sossoooo hungover!

    Employee from dept B: Yea well at least you got some from those skanks over in dept C!!1! letz duck out for an early lunch at flingers, hair of the dog man

    Employee from dept A: Oh %@#$ you better untag any photo's my wife might see them!

    Employee from dept B: lolz

  • "which develops bespoke networking software" and he's the guy quoted most extensively in the article. So that's legit, right? And if you'll just buy his software suite, productivity will skyrocket, business will be better, and--uh--Turrell gets rich! Such a deal.

    The things they say they want to promote could be easily handled by a plain old listserv. Got a question? Put it on the listserv. Everybody sees it. Reply comes quickly. Works for us.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Social networking at work (and outside of work) IS good however it is bad to utilize an external website such as Facebook/Myspace to fulfill that goal.

    Businesses have options to utilize "internal" social networking and collaboration tools (such as Clearspace http://www.jivesoftware.com/products/clearspace) instead of violating networking and security firewall policies by allowing that user to go to an external website to post personal views/etc. This function is a part of any good company and should be kep

  • Amazing... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ITEric ( 1392795 )
    to think that I've been spending my work hours actually working when I could have been goofing off and calling it 'productive social networking' :P Sure, social networking has a place in a productive work environment, but it should be limited in a very tangible way, with the guidelines explained up front, for it not to be abused.
  • Is good for HR to find BS ways to not hire people.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @07:55PM (#25563129) Journal

    ...I'm sure they'll reverse all their decisions immediately.

    At work email sites, social networking and YouTube are blocked. It smacks of not trusting your employee to do work but there are PR implications if it gets out that employees are slacking.

    We also have a download proxy that filters everything for virii (and often stuffs up large downloads since it returns its own download progress page). I can't blame my employer for protecting their assets, especially since a virus outbreak where I work has even worse PR implications, but at the same time I wish there were a better way than this.

    The way it is at the moment, some days I don't get time to download anything and don't even think about whether I'm blocked or not, other days it just gets in the way of getting work related content, and on a few rare days where there's little to do it would be nice to have access to these things. This has all been implemented since I joined s few yers ago, and it's certainly not enough to change jobs over on it's own, but it's another thing that has made looking elsewhere in the future a little more palatable. I'm also no longer permitted to play chess on my personal laptop at my desk at lunch time or after work any longer as "it gives the wrong impression", and that really stinks. Telling your employee you don't trust them, and eroding the employee's non-monetary benefits doesn't exactly do wonders for morale...

    • Don't forget of course that even only half a dozen people using uTube in a big office can make a serious dent in available bandwidth for use by other users. My company just stopped any video access recently because, especially on a Friday afternoon, it was impossible to get your email. But, thank goodness for low bandwidth Slashdot.
      • by syousef ( 465911 )

        My company just stopped any video access recently because, especially on a Friday afternoon, it was impossible to get your email.

        Sounds like time for a QoS solution, with video being given a limited amount of bandwidth.

        • Why not just force employees to watch Tiger vs Man on Elephant [youtube.com] on their own time?

          It is called work after all, not play or slashdot.

          Oh Wait...
          • by syousef ( 465911 )

            Why not just force employees to watch Tiger vs Man on Elephant on their own time?

            It is called work after all, not play or slashdot.

            Perhaps because we work in an industry where unpaid overtime is expected?? Perhaps because if an employee can do things from their desk it'll encourage them to spend more time at work? Perhaps because when you're paying someone over $50/hr and trusting them with valuable data in critical situations you're silly to then refuse to trust them with a video connection? Oh and perhaps

            • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

              Your overtime IS paid for in your normal wages, the extra hours are a part of the job.

              • by syousef ( 465911 )

                Your overtime IS paid for in your normal wages, the extra hours are a part of the job.

                Perhaps yours are. Mine are not. I do get overtime. It's just rare that it's formally recognised, and so I'm rarely paid for it. Believe it or not, some people are paid by the hour.

                Maybe before you start being so arrogant as to tell someone (probably from another part of the world) how their employment contract works, you might want to try getting a few facts first.

                • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

                  I get paid by the hour, what's your point?

                  You see to have issues with doing the job your paid for!

                  It is not unreasonable for your employer to expect you to do some work when they are paying your wages/salary!

                  • by syousef ( 465911 )

                    I get paid by the hour, what's your point?

                    My point is that if I choose to occassionally engage in personal activity on a work computer, it is not a bad thing

                    You see to have issues with doing the job your paid for!

                    No I have issues with trolls that don't know me telling me what the conditions of my employment contract are, telling me what I should and shouldn't do at work despite that contract, and throwing straw men like "You see to have issues with doing the job your paid for!" in my face. You couldn't have

                    • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

                      I have never encountered any restrictions on what I can and can't do, but just because the opportunity to mess around is there it doesn't mean you should take it.

                    • by syousef ( 465911 )

                      I have never encountered any restrictions on what I can and can't do, but just because the opportunity to mess around is there it doesn't mean you should take it.

                      What exactly is it that you're implying that I'm messing around and doing? We were talking about restrictions on email, youtube, playing a game on a laptop at lunch time, not screwing your employer out of millions.

                      You really have nothing better to do than this????

            • whooosh!
          • by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

            Don't forget the boxing Kangaroo, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36tBS6dXo-U&feature=related [youtube.com]

  • I just know there's an "unlikely" tag around here somewhere...

  • By "social networking" I assumed it meant talking to the other humans around you. A terrifying prospect. I'm relieved to see it's only make-believe socialization through the protective glowing screen.
  • ...brought to you courtesy of Rupert Murdoch.
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:58PM (#25563777)

    At an outfit I used to work for, we had an internal Usenet set up on out intranet. Hey, it was in the last century! We didn't have all this new fangled technology you young punks take for granted.

    But, back to the topic at hand. Management took a dim view of the employees chatting back and forth while at work. So they cracked down on it. That drove the on-line conversations to external sites and encouraged anonymity on them. The end result is that the same conversations go on now as before. But enlightened management has a harder time keeping a finger on the pulse of the workforce by lurking on the newsgroups. And more than once, some sensitive information has made it on to the outside systems where the world (competitors, federal regulators, etc.) can see them.

    Great move, PHB!

    • by afidel ( 530433 )
      That's one of the motivations behind our Intranet portal with a communities module, to encourage communications and keep conversations within the company private. I really hope we don't go through what you experienced because it would be a lot of wasted money and effort (money) if some clueless PHB tries to lock it down because they didn't like something they read.
    • A similar thing happened at my old company - we had a set of internal newsgroups allowing people at sites all across the country (and world in some cases) to communicate freely...however, management wanted to ensure that the control of the information flow remained with them (knowledge is, after all, power, and I often knew about things going on in the company before my managers did) and they wanted to crush the emerging subculture. Thus we were driven to use public mailing lists and there we remain (though

  • by jonaskoelker ( 922170 ) <jonaskoelker@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:50PM (#25564265)

    a Demos study suggests. Attempts to control employees' use of such software could damage firms in the long run by limiting the way staff communicate, the think tank said.

    How about the demotivational impact of having authority used against you, stripping away your own?

    At a company where I worked, we had to show up for brief (10m) morning meetings, and we had to hand in our weekly reports saying what we accomplished. If you could make leprechauns write your code while you read slashdot, more power to you. If you had to go shopping for tobacco for five minutes before taking a smoking break (whenever you wanted), off you went. Add wii tennis after lunch and beer plus more wii tennis on fridays :)

    They adjusted their hiring policy down a little while I worked there, from "add 90%" to "add 75%" or something like that. Yeah, all that long leash really made people not work, that is why they needed more; not because of the profitability of their work.

    If people slack off at work rather than at home, who cares as long as their job is done in time? Employ and pay people based on their ability to provide value, not on how hard they must work to do so. Fire the numbskulls, moneyshower the brainiacs.

  • I'd rather stay away from the networking sites. I need to keep my clearance to keep my job. Make enough noise and they start wondering what else you're up to. This is not negotiable with most similar positions. It's agreed to as a term of employment.

  • ...that the staff at Demos are l33t at Facebook's Traveler IQ Challenge and Bloons Tower Defense 3.

    I can just see it now: "No way. They actually bought into the report? - SWEET!"

    If there is one thing I know, it is the fact of my own ignorance
  • sometimes it's very essential to business to control the way in which its employees communicate. If it were my company, I would prohibit company business on any service not explicit in the employee communications manual. (yes, I would write an employee communications manual). Such a manual would lay out a terms of use for using company resources.

    Sometimes you have to enact damage control, but it's rarely necessary if your employees know what they can and can't disseminate over services like facebook and twitter.

    Lest we forget corporate secrets going out over someone's flickr album. In this new day and age, employees are expected to be productive while communicating readily and instantly with the rest of the social world. There is a way to do it safely. Sometimes you simply must restrict their access if it would damage the company.

    • Ordering people to use your local mail server for work-related e-mails for security reasons is one thing; trying to filter the internet to keep your sysadmin/computer lab technician/receptionist/whoever from using their computer to check personal e-mails is another. People aren't busy 100% of the time, even if you need them there ... sometimes they're on-call for internal tech support, compiling code for debugging, rendering video, or just eating their lunch on a break. Why can't they check their facebook f

      • I wasn't suggesting that employees won't have downtime. But what you're suggesting is that they will have like 30-40% downtime.

        If they have more than 5% downtime, maybe it's time to downsize.

        Employee downtime is very costly to a business.

        And I wasn't writing specifically about tech companies.

        If you work for an insurance company, or a mortgage broker, or a doctor, or dunder mifflin, you're not supposed to have more that an hour of downtime a day for your federally mandated breaks.

        That being said, I understa

        • I agree with that. I think that filtering sites at the work internet connection is a poor solution to reducing downtime, though. It's like trying to fine-tune a computer with a hammer -- you're just going to ignore the original problem while making a dozen new problems for yourself.
  • This just in... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by definate ( 876684 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @12:36AM (#25565297)

    ... people aren't busy 100% of the time, and attempting to force people to be busy 100% of the time, is more destructive than letting it go.

    Wow. Who would have thought?

    Seriously, this has been known for quite some time, and any businesses that think they can improve productivity by reducing other options, needs to go back to business school and study leadership and general motivation theory.

    Monitoring and punishing people to get them to work harder is industrial revolution style management. We've come a long way since then... baby.

  • On Call (Score:3, Informative)

    by schlick ( 73861 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @12:47AM (#25565349)

    I get paid salary and part of that is being on call. So the way I see it my downtime can be on call too. If they expect me to wake up and fix a server at 2:00am then they can just suck it up if I read /. while I'm also in the office. If I'm expected to work at home then they should expect some downtime at work. They can't schedule emergencies? I can't schedule the articles I'll be interested in on slashdot.

    Luckily I work at place that understands that productivity and "work" aren't the same thing

  • Agreed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @06:28AM (#25566897)

    I use my facebook to network. 90% of my "friends" on facebook are past clients, programmers, project managers, executives, creatives, ... I've worked with as a consultant. It helps you to keep track, keep a certain connection and allow you utilize your network inthere, in a slightly more casual way... With other tools it's harder to maintain your network and have more of a feel with your network, and what they're busy with: after a while the image of someone waters down because of the excess of contacts as a consultant, so if you have a face and the conveyed personality you can more easily reconnect with how the person is/was while you worked with them.

    It also helps teamspirit in a company: we've created a company group, post our company events, show off to eachother the events we've ended up with with clients and just fool around, have a bit of competitive fun as well. It creates a more tight bound with all our consultants and is just plain fun! Happy, fun developers are productive ones.

  • An employer might use software to monitor and limit social networking time, so employees don't spend it to excess. Detailed discussion [wordpress.com] --Ben
  • Business should try to harness social networking tools for their business - not just to encourage "Citizen Marketers" but also in the corporate intranet. I've found that this improves collaboration and idea sharing across departments/offices/countries. The intranet then becomes a self reinforcing loop of communication and improvement which hardly ever happens with intranets. You in effect create a discussion with your employees, just as you do with your consumers.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun