Will You Embrace Facebook at Work at Your Company?

News is out that Facebook, that ubiquitous social media site that is home to Candy Crush, likes and status updates about children, cats, and workouts, is readying a professional version for the office. Will you embrace Facebook at Work?

The Financial Times reports “The Silicon Valley company is developing a new product designed to allow users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents, competing with Google Drive and Microsoft Office, according to people familiar with the matter. The new site will look very much like Facebook – with a newsfeed and groups – but will allow users to keep their personal profile with its holiday photos, political rants and silly videos separate from their work identity. Facebook declined to comment.”

The Register, a UK IT website, says Facebook’s expanded hiring of engineers in London was specifically driven by the creation of this new product. “The free content ad network beefed up its developer wares outside of Facebook’s Menlo Park, San Francisco headquarters and Dublin, Ireland for the first time in 2013, when it hired a team of engineers in the UK,” the site reported.

Then the article goes on to mention the big problem with Facebook. It’s a time suck that many companies currently ban. “Up until now, Facebook has been largely shunned by the corporate world, given its propensity for time-wasting during office hours. The site is banned on many company networks,” it reported.

Entrepreneur.com is pretty frank in its assessment of the situation in an article with a title that pulls no punches: “Why Banning Facebook in Your Workplace Is a Stupid Move.” It says, “Liking, sharing and commenting aren’t allowed in one out of five workplaces as many employers block access to Facebook on company computers, finds New York-based research firm Statista.”

It then goes on to explain why banning social media is, well, stupid. “Time spent on Facebook might seem like time wasted and banning it makes sense on the surface,” says Angelo Kinicki, professor of management at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, “But when people go to work, do they sit and concentrate and work for eight hours straight? No, our minds can’t take that level of concentration.”

To maintain productivity, employees need small breaks throughout the day that will reenergize the mind, says Kinicki. “And Facebook, personal emails and talking at the water cooler are the ways people refresh,” he says.

The article lists these four reasons for allowing Facebook in the workplace.

  1. It could alienate younger employees. Employees from younger generations, such as millennials, are accustomed to using social media on a regular basis.
  2. It suggests mistrust. Banning social media may send a message to your employees that you don’t trust them, says Kinicki.
  3. It shows lack of support. When people feel supported at work, they perform at higher levels, says Kinicki.
  4. It disrupts balance in the workplace. Productivity is all about balance, says Kinicki, and banning employees from Facebook is like banning them from talking about football at work.

Interestingly, Entrepreneur.com does have a contrasting opinion on the issue with its “6 Reasons Why You Should Quit Facebook.” Among the reasons listed are:

  • Facebook is the ultimate time waster (in a year’s time you could easily spend more than 2 week’s time at the site)
  • Facebook is a money pit (where businesses can spend countless marketing dollars without measured results)
  • You won’t miss it (Twitter might be more effective for businesses)
  • Personal profiles are no longer private (but Facebook at Work supposedly will make sure the two don’t mix)
  • Facebook makes you less happy (according to a recent study that finds it affects most people negatively)
  • You can’t trust Facebook (because it mines data from users without consent)

Where will your company fall? Comment below to share your opinions on Facebook at Work.

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.