By Alexandra DeFelice
This is the message I received when trying to log in to my Facebook account from an accounting firm's office.
Those words confirmed my suspicions that several firms ‒ and businesses in general ‒ are blocking their employees from using Facebook during working hours, at least from their work-assigned computers within the walls of their company office.
Although I'm not a CPA, I actively engage with CPAs on Facebook, and I've noticed that many of them answer me after hours. Part of me argued that because worlds are increasingly colliding, maybe they were choosing to use Facebook at night when they typically converse with their friends, share pictures, and perhaps catch up on their professional articles and blogs. Hey, why not?
Then reality kicked in. I bet that given the choice, most people would prefer to connect with accounting publications, such as AccountingWEB, during the day. And let's be honest, they'd rather connect with their friends during the day, too.
For decades, before all this social media hoopla came into the mainstream, people found ways to take care of their personal business during the workday. They'd go to the DMV on their "lunch break," which we all know took longer than an hour; they'd wait in long lines at the bank, pre-ATM days; and they'd even chat on their phone with their spouses or children.
Perhaps some companies had strict policies prohibiting such activities and monitored everyone's conversations and time away from the office. It's doubtful that was the norm.
Yet somehow, it got into the heads of a bunch of decision makers that they have to block Facebook because employees ‒ especially younger ones ‒ will "spend all day talking to their friends." My favorite ironic conversation took place just the other week with a CPA whose firm blocks Facebook for junior staff but allows partners to use it.
"So what do you use it for?" I inquired.
"To talk to my kids," he replied.
Let's face reality. If people want to talk to their friends during the day, they're going to do it. Unless you make them drop their phones at the door when they come into the office so they can't send text messages, you centralize all phone calls, and you block access to every e-mail site, employees can talk to their friends. I've known people who only had access to their work e-mails and used those just like personal accounts, even going so far as to apply for other jobs through those accounts, despite warnings in their employee contract that their firm monitors e-mails.
And just because they aren't chatting with their friends doesn't mean they're working. I've spied on several people who looked like they were typing away on their smartphones only to discover they were playing games. I've even walked past a colleague (in a prior life) playing solitaire in full view on his desktop. As far as I know, most companies don't remove games from their employees' computers, though I did learn while conducting research for this article that Windows 7 Professional doesn't have games installed by default. It's quite simple to install solitaire, spider solitaire, chess, and mahjong (Disclaimer: The author is not responsible for any loss of productivity resulting from installing aforementioned games).
A chartered accountant from Canada I know called me while I was writing this article and coincidentally mentioned how shocked she was that some firms not only blocked access to social media but were quite passionate about doing so; whereas, she encourages her employees to use those sites with guidelines set forth by the firm (such as no defamatory remarks). When employees say something positive about the firm, it can create a great image and bring positive energy to others, she said.
It seems as though her way may be the trend of the future.
In its March report
, Gartner stated that by 2014, fewer than 30 percent of large organizations will block employee access to social media sites, compared with 50 percent in 2010. The number of organizations blocking access to all social media is dropping by around 10 percent a year.
Attitudes are changing as more companies realize their employees can easily circumnavigate many of the blocks they put in place, the authors of the report said. Instead, they're taking the time to educate their staff about what's appropriate and what isn't.
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