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Lucie Mitchell

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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British workers snub social media bans


British employees are most likely to ignore workplace bans on social media, compared to their European counterparts, according to a new report.

Two in five European employees are either banned from, or have restricted access to, Facebook in the office, the study by Samsung Electronics found.

In UK workplaces where Facebook is banned, 41% of workers defy their employer and access it in the office, while 40% use Twitter and 41% access video streaming services.

Samsung said that the findings suggest there is a ‘trust gap’ between bosses and employees, with just half of the 4,500 workers surveyed stating that their employer gave them freedom to use technology in the office.

German employees trail closely behind the UK, with 34% ignoring social media bans, followed by 33% of Spanish workers, 32% of Italian employees, and 31% of both Belgian and Dutch workers.

French employees seem to be the most compliant, with only 20% flouting any bans on social media at work.

Dr Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer and business psychologist at University College London, said: “From a security point of view, it’s perfectly natural that employers should want to control their employees’ use of technology, to a degree.

“If, however, they also neglect the contemporary needs of their workforce they may face reductions in employee productivity and engagement.

“The days when employees would simply follow the rules without questioning them are truly behind us. Trust, clear communication and meaningful frameworks are far more effective at facilitating constructive behaviour – both at work and at play."

He added that banning technologies and websites in the workplace can often have the opposite effect to that intended.

“Real trust must be mutual. Organisations are far better off observing how employees are working, and then finding ways to make this behaviour compatible with the workplace.”

Those aged between 18 and 34 were most likely to defy a ban on social media in the office, while employers in the hospitality sector were most likely to put restrictions in place, according to the study.

2 Responses

  1. It must vary from business to business and sector to sector…

    ….how valuable having SoMe available in the workplace is (and I presume in any business the marketing/comms teams are allowed to have their social channels turned on??), but the findings of this report are heartening I think!

    It suggests to me that UK workers have figured out that SoMe are an incredibly powerful resource for learning, training, and honing their skills. For knowledge economy workers I would suggest that social media are a mission-critical tool, ideal for raising profile and promoting skills development – if managed correctly! The trick is to train and encourage staff to use social media not just responsibly (which should be a given if you are dealing with smart, sensible individuals), but effectively, as a means of staying on top of the latest developments in the business world, sharing skills and info, and strengthening the company brand. After all, a good company has good people working for it – for clients and partners to recognise that, the people must be visible and able to demonstrate their expertise, and SoMe is a great way to do so.

    Any manager who thinks  that they can engage and retain their staff to get the best out of them, while also treating them errant children (blanket bans etc), needs a reality check! What this report shows is that many companies haven't developed a mature SoMe policy, and need to think seriously about how best to use it not just to control their staff's SoMe presence and usage, but leverage it to provide real value for the business.


  2. How is this even a thing?

    Surely anyone that desperate to access social media or the web in general will have a mobile device that's capable of going on-line?  If you're in town, wireless hotspots aren't hard to find, if your device doesn't do standard data.

    My office has a balanced solution.  Social media sites are blocked completely off all works machines, but there are wireless routers on every floor, so when you go for lunch you can browse the web or Facebook in your own time on your own device without burning through your data package.  The routers still have some filtering, but it's much less intrusive.

    In special circumstances, managers have been known to let people keep their device up during work hours, if there was something specific they were waiting for.  A colleague was waiting to hear if a friend had arrived from the U.S. and the flight had been badly delayed.  The friend didn't have a UK-capable phone, but could connect to the net at the airport and pass on a message via Facebook.

    When managers impose blanket bans like this, they are effectively saying to their staff: "We don't trust you to act like adults over this, so we're going to treat you like children."  That's always going to get such a positive result…

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Lucie Mitchell

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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