“I want to ban Facebook.”

This was the statement posed to me by my project manager at my new job. He personally doesn’t like the use of Facebook at work. His opinion is that it’s a time-sink, that employees aren’t being paid to surf on Facebook.

While one survey has shown the drop in focus and productivity with being on Facebook , there is a flip side to the coin. If you have a social media presence on Facebook, then yes, it is your job to be on Facebook. If you work with volunteers, then perhaps you need to be on Facebook during working hours to assist in coordinating schedules. Likewise if you’re in the marketing or sales departments.

Solving the wrong problem?

Even if these scenarios don’t fit your situation, some people will argue that it’s a management issue, not a technology issue.

“If you don’t want your people on Facebook during working hours, then tell them. If they can’t seem to follow that rule, then find somebody else who can.”

True, except for the cost and time of training them. Here’s the thing. If you block it on their computers, then they will simply access it on their phones. The time sink won’t go away, but simply move to another device. True, it’ll be easier to spot, but the core problem is still there.

Security Concerns

From an IT Security manager’s perspective, there are some valid reasons to block Facebook at work. Compromised Facebook (and Twitter) accounts are a current form of malware distribution. Today’s users know to not open email attachments from strangers, but a link that your friend sent to you via a Facebook message or direct message in your Twitter account? Well…that’s safe because you know that person.

Except it’s not.

I got caught with this one. It was in an email from my wife, who sends me links all the time. I opened it and my Yahoo account got compromised.

These things happen. People will argue that it doesn’t matter whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or some other site. You can still get compromised. The thing is, it’s a valid argument. SO we just block the entire Internet? Or do we load up the computers on the network with ten different anti-virus and anti-malware products and hope for the best, while our machines slow down to a crawl?

Is it a good thing that your employee may be banning Facebook? Possibly. There are some people who have lost their jobs over posting things to Facebook. This could also be because of comments like “I’m so bored.” Some managers will take that as a challenge and either bury you in work so that you won’t be bored anymore, or worse, they’ll simply fire you because you can’t seem to find something productive to do on your own. Both possibilities are bad. It’s similar to only sending funny jokes via email to your co-workers. The occasional funny joke is fine, but when it’s all you ever send them, it sends the wrong message. The one that says “You don’t have enough to do.”

So where do we stand?

The interesting thing is, the discussion is far from over on this issue. On the one hand, there’s the loss of productivity and the possible leakage of trade secrets, along with the infection vector for malware and viruses. On the other hand, employees aren’t children. They should be smart enough to know that they aren’t being paid to be on Facebook or any other social media site. However, sometimes they need a break from the task at hand, and a little dip into Farmville may do the trick. It’s not any different than walking around the block.

Ultimately, I’m going to do what my boss tells me to do. Personally? I think that if we ban it, I will get a tremendous increase in the amount of calls and emails that I get, reporting that “they can’t get on Facebook”. Then they will be mad at me and go find another way to do it, either via their phones or by screwing up their work computers (that I have to fix). Do I agree that it’s an issue? Sure, but I don’t think that banning Facebook (or any other site) is the answer.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

(Photo credit: Woman Signing Into Facebook on Tablet via Shutterstock)

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