Those who work in corporate environments are generally accustomed to restrictions to web sites and services that could be accessed from work. Although there are genuine concerns regarding information security, the major concern, especially in smaller companies, is with the productivity of their employees. The fear is that everyone will spend the day updating their Facebook or Twitter statuses and this is what causes these tools to be completely blocked, or access restricted to specific times. Often, popular blogging services like Blogger or WordPress are also blocked.
But in a world where, for some time now, Web 2.0 is no longer a novelty, and interactions between company, customers and even competitors often form the greatest competitive edges of company brands, do the practices mentioned in the preceding paragraph help or hurt?
A study published in 2009 by Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne in Australia, says that workers who access social networks like Facebook and Youtube at work are more productive than those who don’t. The study found that workers who spend up to 20% of their time using social networks are, on average, 9% more productive than those who do not access any social network at work. According to the study, the explanation could be the improved ability to concentrate with the periodic pauses that “refresh your mind” during leisure activities.
Other than Facebook and Twitter, networks designed exclusively for work offer even greater benefits. Networks like Xing (for Europeans), LinkedIn (for the rest of the world), and even following certain hashtags in Twitter help any professional expand his network of contacts, in addition to bringing the latest news of the their respective business sector. The marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki, lists 10 ways to use LinkedIn more effectively in his blog.
A third use case is networks used to perform work within an organization or group.—Applications like Yammer, a sort of closed ‘Twitter’ for exclusive use by a group of people, and other collaboration portals as those created by Microsoft’s Sharepoint. IBM is a pioneer in the large-scale implementation of such tools, and several sources have shown fantastic results achieved by the company in increasing internal collaboration between employees, increased innovation speed within the company, caused by the higher exchange of information between people who otherwise would not have even known each other, among other reasons.
Recently, we have followed the migration of tools that have traditionally and exclusively been used “behind firewalls”, that are physically installed within the internal network of company, to open models offered over the internet. This model further extends the possibilities of gains through the use of online collaboration tools, as it facilitates usage by distributed teams or with larger mobility and decreases the costs of implementation by transferring all the infrastructure and maintenance costs to the service provider.
What stage is your company at? Investing precious time and money in monitoring and blocking networks, or encouraging the use of new tools to increase productivity of your employees?