More Networking Than Working?

Many companies limit the use of the web during work, because they think it is disrupting the existing workflow and induces less productivity. Joining IRC chatrooms are prohibited because they not only interrupt work and bring inefficiency, company reputation could be at risk and chatters could also be vulnerable to sexual abuse suspects and other predators prowling on the web for opportunities. Some companies restrict access to certain sites and ban specific those with sensitive content (hate sites, pornographic, gambling, etc). A few of my friends tell me they can’t use Yahoo! Messenger or Gmail so they can’t communicate online while at work

Good thing I’m working in a company that allows folks to exchange messages through MSN or Yahoo!, visit sites that are deemed useful in gathering information to provide to clients and prospects. Giving freedom to employees empower them to do their work and do it well. It also gives them the broader responsibility of not being policed on which sites they visit and on online activities they do. (It’s highly unlikely to see someone in the office betting for a football team or visit an adult site.)

An article posted in 2005 shows the reasons why social networking shouldn’t work. Whether that one is a link bait or otherwise is beyond my comprehension at the moment.

Perhaps it was a popular thing to do to punish employees for lingering on the web during office hours. And maybe that’s because of the stats provided below:

• One-third of time spent online at work is non-work-related.
• Internet misuse at work is costing American corporations more than $85 billion annually in lost productivity.
• 80 percent of companies reported that employees had abused Internet privileges, such as downloading pornography or pirated software.
• Nearly 80 percent of instant messaging in companies is done over public IM services such as AOL, MSN and Yahoo, exposing companies to security risks.
• There are more than 43 million users of consumer IM at work.
• Only one quarter of companies have a clearly defined policy on the user of IM at work.
• 70 percent of porn is downloaded between 9am and 5pm.
• 37 percent of at-work Internet users in the US had visited an X-rated Web site from work.
• 77 percent of weekly online listening to Internet Radio takes place between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific time.
• 44 percent of corporate employees actively use streaming media.

Microsoft even suggests to enforce a company policy on Internet usage. But for a typical office worker like me, who might not be able to find a job in a company that does not require Internet access, this could be disturbing. I remember once when our network broke loose, we exclaimed “Well, we’ve got nothing to do”. Files we’re working on are located on our data server and not within our personal computers. My research on consumer behavior in Korea has to be dug on the web, and I can’t finish my proposal document unless I receive a feedback from London via e-mail attachment. That’s how we work today. We couldn’t imagine what does people do in the office if they don’t have computers on their desks.

Office productivity is also lost not only because office hours provide the best time to make buying decisions, but also for certain events that take place during the day. For example, more than 120,000 office hours were lost on the eve of the football season as fans put the finishing touches to their online fantasy football teams.

However, it is an accepted phenomenon that the web – social networks in particular– has also been a catalyst for inter office collaboration, which makes life easier for colleagues located continents and time zones apart. If I am looking for someone with skills in both Perl and Python, I may not need to go immediately to JobsDB or Monster to find the best candidate. I can post my requirement at LinkedIn or locate colleagues from an office far away, who may be at Facebook instead of waiting for an e-mail response or even picking up the phone.

These are among the reasons why companies are adopting social media.

A University of Massachusetts Dartmouth survey found that the fastest growing Inc. 500 companies adopt blogging, podcasting and other social media as business tools and a majority of companies consider social media to play significant strategic role.
The study was conducted by Inc. magazine’s Inc. 500 and the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. It shows that big companies are comprehensively involved in social media.

Two out of three of the Inc. 500 companies cited social media as playing a “very important” or “somewhat important” role in their business and marketing strategies. Twenty-six percent reported it is “very important,” while 40 percent ranked it “somewhat important.”

Forty-two percent of respondents claim to be “very familiar” with social networking. Thirty-eight percent are “very familiar” with message and bulletin boards, 36 percent with blogging, 31 percent with online video, 30 percent with podcasting and 16 percent with wikis.

Thirty-three percent of the companies use message/bulletin boards. Social networking was a resource for only 27 percent.
So it won’t be surprising to see our bosses embrace the idea and get hooked and linked to us as contacts/friends in Facebook, something we thought was out of the conventional domain of computer loving teenagers and college students inspired by Mark Zuckerberg, a dropout, a hacker and later on became the CEO of Facebook.

Therefore it’s not surprising to that Nissan, which is known for its cars rather than computer professionals, is thought to be mimicking MySpace’s social networking model.