Don’t ban Facebook!

It is rare that I find myself on the side of the TUC and against the Federation of Small Businesses but today there was a report on the BBC News website around whether or not firms should ban Facebook. Let me deal with the view of the Federation of Small Businesses one by one

1) Huge companies have banned it. Huge companies are good. Therefore banning it is obviously a good thing.

Where do I start with this one! The guy actually opened his argument with it! Wasn’t Enron a huge company…?

2) Small employers won’t be able to put in a good policy.

I have a policy – you can use it as long as it doesn’t interfere with your performance at work, or cause additional cost or degredation to the performance of the company’s internet connection. When did small businesses lose the capacity for common sense? Does that mean that small businesses are unable to have a policy on acceptable internet use to check your bank balance? Mobile phone/landline use? Email use? I think the Federation of Small Businesses is underestimating small businesses. If you can’t deal with the internet you shouldn’t be in business.

3) There was one case of someone using Facebook for 4 hours a day. Clearly this is unacceptable.

Clearly. So put this individual through a performance review process and take appropriate action. What would you do if he or she took a 4 hour lunch break? Or are small businesses unable to have a lunch break policy too?

4) Because large companies have banned it there is a problem with Facebook “in itself”

I can’t believe he came back to this one and even re-phrased it in a weaker fashion. See point 1.

5) If we put in a policy, the treasury will see it as a taxable benefit

Really dredging the barrel here. Are landlines that people can make the odd personal call on a taxable benefit? What about overall internet access? Facebook is free!

6) Staff who are not into Facebook will resent staff who are and have an adverse affect on industrial relations

So join! I’m sure staff who don’t have on-line bank accounts and don’t have a mobile phone are resentful of those who do.

These views are incredibly short-sighted. Banning something you don’t understand is never successful. Companies that want to compete in the 21st century will need staff who understand and embrace new ways of communicating, and feel that their employers support them in this. When I worked for IBM at the turn of the century similar concerns were being expressed about general internet use. Instead of trying to ban it, IBM put in a policy that said that IBM was an internet company and therefore encouraged its employees to explore the internet during working hours, as long as it did not impact overall performance which would continue to be measured and addressed in the usual way. This is a perfectly sensible policy which would fit small and large businesses alike.

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