Whilst dressing for work in the morning I often have BBC news on the TV in the background. The bland chatter usually doesn’t penetrate my half slumbering state but this morning I was roused by two talking heads reacting in opposite directions to the TUC’s call for better understanding of the use of social media sites in the workplace.

“The TUC advice suggests that whilst employers are completely within their rights to forbid staff from using sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Bebo in work time, a total ban may be something of an over-reaction.”

http://www.tuc.org.uk/law/tuc-13641-f0.cfm

Good for them! A sensible, modern approach from the Establishment.

But what astonished and angered me wasn’t the fact that the debate was happening, but that it’s a debate at all. For me it’s not how can a business restrict use but how can it embrace and encourage sensible use.

Finally technology becomes truly interesting and inspiring! And what do we do? Ban it! Block it! Cut the phone lines! Stop emails! Encourage total silence! Empty the water coolers! Wall up the kitchens! Discard your mobile phones!

Aside from the inherent flaw in the ban argument (people will always behave like people, like the social animals that we are) the business implications of this management through fear could be insurmountable.

We’ve got a generation of young employees entering the workforce now who have absorbed these technologies. Aside from the valuable networking benefits of facilities like Facebook Polls and Linkedin to any business, there is a wider issue. Who will they want to work for? The company that has such short sighted policies it sees social media as a threat to productivity? Or the company that has clear and firm guidelines in place for web use and trusts it’s staff to use these freedoms wisely, to their own and the company’s benefit?

Isn’t a content and trusted employee a better, more productive employee?

A quick straw poll of the ode team suggest that those who use social sites have them open in the back ground and pop in now and again or wait to be notified of any activity. Once the initial “Wow this is awesome” feeling has worn off and most of your social circle have signed up it becomes a simple communication tool. It blends, not jars, with working life.

Surely if a member of your team is abusing a social media site on company time then this is symptomatic of a bigger problem? Lack of motivation perhaps? Poor time management? Under utilised? Low moral in general?

If you manage a team you cannot say you’re “too busy” to know how your staff are behaving (as one of the two pundits said in the TV debate this morning, yes the one who wanted to ban Facebook).

That IS your job.

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