At first, I shrugged off the semi-literate comment left to one of my posts over on Stop Blocking, the site I started to advocate for reasonable employee access to the Net, and particularly to social media sites.
The post to which "reason," as he called himself left a comment reported on a study that showed 54% of companies were blocking access. Here's his response:
isnt it funny in todays world how everyone thinks they deserve better than what they are getting without haveing to really work for it no job owes you facebook time so feel your rights are being taken for granted grow up you big baby work time is not your fun time so if you block your workers from facebook @ work dont feel that blocking reduces productivity and engagement, limits recruiting capabilities, and denies networking that ultimately benefits the organization. thats a bunch of crap do your job facebook dont pay your bills you lucky to even have a job.
I blew off the comment initially, relegating it to the "just doesn't get it" dustbin. But I found the comment kept coming back to me, not because reason's reasoning is right but because he seems to think that I'm advocating for employee rights in my efforts to get companies to stop blocking.
I'm not an employee rights advocate. If I were, very few of my clients would be interested in my services. My goal is to help organizations succeed. I've achieved my goals if companies are more profitable, more competitive, more nimble, more productive. I'm campaigning to get companies to open employee access to social sites because increasingly the networked connectivity of workers is driving competitiveness, productivity and other indicators of improved performance.
The fact is, through all my years working in employee communications, I've never been concerned with whether employees are happy. It's not a company's job to ensure employee happiness. Employee job satisfaction is another story. It's tangible, it's measurable and it has a direct bearing on employee engagement, which is a predictor of organizational growth.
But even job satisfaction is just one return a company gets from networked employees. Zappos encourages its employees to network on the job, resulting in a reputation for stellar customer service. Employees engaged in their social networks can also reduce the cost and improve the quality of recruiting. It can surface issues the company needs to address. It can generate ideas for new products and services. It improves employee productivity.
On that last note, productivity, I came across an item today on TMCnet sporting the provocative headline, "Workplace Productivity at an All-Time Low." The press release touted the products of a company called Pandoraâ€"not the music streaming site, blocked by a number of companiesâ€"but rather one that "allows managers to analyze activities performed by employees and the time spent on different work items. It also affords the ability to track computer usage at a group and/or an individual level, cross-reference activities reported by an employee, and access an employee's desktop in real-time."
The all-time low productivity claim is based on this calculation:
On average, workers with an Internet connection spend 21 hours per week online while in the office, a little more than four hours per day. And on average, 26% of that time is spent on personal-interest websites. That amounts to roughly an hour per day, or 22 hours per month.
Pandora is just one of many companies that profit from the fear they produce with such outlandish claims. As I've repeatedly noted, these calculations don't account for the benefits such networking brings to the organization, the improved productivity highlighted in a University of Melbourne study, or the amount of work these employees perform outside the 9-to-5 office hours because they're networked. In fact, another story that crossed my desk today points out that companies in the UK were able to maintain productivity even as snowbound workers were unable to get to the office because their ability to connect with each other and the office let them get their work done from home.
And, as I've also noted before, these lost-productivity assertions don't stand up to statistical scrutiny. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased in the third quarter of 2009 by 8.1%. That's a far more credible number than the back-of-the-envelope calculations Pandora, Websense and other monitoring-and-blocking companies use in their scare campaigns. In fact, it reveals the productivity claims by these companies as an outright lie.
Yet these tactics continue to influence managers, as evidenced by the fact that most companies block access despite the fact that blocking is contrary to their own self interests.
Leaders need to realize that organizations that encourage their employees to network during workâ€"guided by clear policies and improved business literacyâ€"will experience success that eclipses that of organizations that block access.
It's not a question of employee entitlements. It's a question of smart business practices.