When a company lacks a good internet use policy and community culture, only then can social networks be enemies for productivity at work, at least that’s what it should be in theory.

But what about practice?

Social networks and media are growing into powerful community management tools for those who are able to utilize them correctly.

90 percent of companies today have a social media policy

While people are still being fired and sanctioned over the content they post in their virtual lives, social media usage by companies is increasing. At the same time, 36 percent of employers have blocked social media at work (up from 29 percent from 2012) and those companies who allow employees access to social media at work has fallen 10 percent in a year.

However, 90 percent of all companies are using social media for business improvement to not only promote and reach customers and clients, or to research candidates and facilitate hiring process, but some also to enhance the co-working atmosphere, community, and management.

For obvious reasons, many companies are still opting to block accesses to social media at work (many for more or less understandable and valid reasons, at least from what I saw recently).

How can one monitor all of their employees all the time?

How can one monitor inappropriate employees’ posts? How can you manage a potential problem?

One question opens another and yet another (as usual), and many more questions, however, whatever the answer is, blocking or allowing can be counterproductive in both ways.

Social networks good for company culture

Social networks are able to develop a stronger co-working community

For obvious reasons, employers are able to see and utilize positive aspects of social media engagement at work. Social networks today are sources of valuable information that can engage, inspire and educate, and in terms of brand or company, promote and distinguish one brand from another, engaging more potential consumers and clients.

More studies have been trying to assess the influence of social media on work efficiency, and some studies, such as those from Microsoft Corp and Warck School of Business showed a strong correlation between productivity and social media usage at work.

“We found that the ubiquitous digital connectivity altered workers’ sense of ‘presence’ and helped rather than hindered the effective completion of collective tasks“, said a professor at Warck School of Business.

Should companies block or allow access to social media at work?

Should social media wait until the end of the working day?

Most people today own a smartphone, so if they wish to spend 2 hours on Facebook or Twitter, they most certainly will, at any point during the day, including working hours.

social networks

Unless the company utilizes a good, not to say excellent, internet use policy that will balance work and pleasure, both work productivity and sense of community will decrease or disappear. While the productivity of employees can be assessed on an individual level, or at least in accordance with the team activities, positive employees’ community and working atmosphere cannot be artificial or imposed, it has to be created.

Managers often forget that there are PEOPLE working, people with different mindsets, ambitious, needs, and wishes. Although blocking access to social media may be a solution, it may not be a particularly good one. It is human nature to connect, bond, share, and communicate.

Smart businesses create a good social media policy

So, why shouldn’t one block accesses to social media?

Speaking from a marketing point of view, social media are taking the promotion and advertising to the next level (not to say that they are already ruling in marketing and advertising), often empowered by real people “word of mouth” marketing techniques, and those people are usually a companies’ employees.

In a word, if you care about your employees, you will care about your consumers, and not see them as numbers or a percentage, and that’s what people as potential clients and consumers want to see and feel.

Speaking from a company’s culture point of view, managers and business leaders can use social networks to assess their work policy and social media policy.

Social Media Policy

The community is often businesses’ stronger asset, and the community is built when employees feel valued, heard, appreciated and respected. If employees feel the urge to negatively comment on work policy or a company, it may be something wrong within management and their work policy.

If they feel the urge to share on social media, can a company handle their personal opinion?

Are they loyal to the company’s goal and idea? Can they be included in the social media strategy and if so, how?

Social media is not only about what employees post about their personal lives, it is also, about what they do not post about a company they work for.

Employees are the public face of the company, and rather than blocking social media during working hours, companies should employ more time into creating social media guidelines or policy, and evolving documents accessible for all employees.

If employees are spending 90 percent of their time tweeting, pining, and posting on Facebook, then one should assess a hiring policy based on a particular employee’s abilities and interest.

There are certainly social networks beyond Facebook, Twitter and other major social media – niche social networks and particular business networks that can improve work community and working atmosphere helping employees collaborate more quickly and efficiently.

Companies can also benefit from social networks by creating their own business and management networks.

When social networks are used correctly, they are very powerful management tools.