Jim Ducharme started an interesting conversation last week here about whether or not social media really belonged in the workplace. Jim looked at it from more of a cultural sense, but I’d like to take a different approach to the issue and consider social media and security.

Are we preventing our employees from achieving maximum productivity by giving them an all-access pass to the great world wide web?

The answer to that question is MAYBE, but it may not matter.

Every business needs to perform an assessment of their workforce to understand the impact having access to social media sites will have. I recommend steering away from assumptions about productivity decline and instead focusing on the security risks involved in granting more or less access. Below are a few questions that need to be answered in that assessment.

Social media and security in the workplace: questions to answer

  • Does having lower network security settings (greater access to web content, including social media sites) improve the company employees’ ability to do their job better
  • What kind of risk is the company taking on (and how much risk is being alleviated) by restricting access to social media sites?
  • What are the potential negative implications of restricting access to social media sites for employee morale and company culture, and does the increase in productivity outweigh impact of them?
  • What is the bare minimum your company employees need to have access to on the internet in order to perform their jobs at 100%?
  • Why are we considering restricting access to social media sites and other networks in the first place?

Understand from your workforce what they need to do from an activity perspective: download files, install software, have access to ftp/sftp sites, transfer large files, engage with a customer community on Facebook, debug on a remote server, etc. Find out the “what” – then slowly increase network security settings over a period of time to ensure that you are finding the right balance between protecting your business and enabling your workforce.

Some businesses may find that their employees are not able to effectively balance access to social sites against effectively performing their jobs. I would argue however that if you find yourself in this situation, you have a bigger issue on your hands. In November 2010, Neilson published a study stating that 28% of the US cellphone market owned smartphones. Chances are a lot of your employees already have access to the internet on their smartphone. Today, if someone wants to access social media sites, they can easily find a way to do so. Social sites on the mobile device present a greater threat to workplace productivity given that most programs have triggered notifications that can be extremely disruptive to focus.

So which would you rather have?

Posted on our Social Marketing Forum blog and moved as part of an integration.