Internet Censorship Sends Wrong Signal To Associates—Checking Social Media At Work

Is Facebook an open window on your computer screen while you’re reading this blog post?

If so, you’re not alone.

Studies show that among business professionals, 58.5 percent check Facebook regularly, nearly 50 percent check LinkedIn regularly, 23 percent check Twitter, and 22 percent consult blogs (hint: that’s you) while at work.

Although younger generations spend almost double the number of hours on social media sites per day than older generations (1.8 hours for Generation Y versus 1 hour for Baby Boomers), social media use among all professionals in general is on the rise.

Administrators seem to think this is point of concern. About 54 percent of companies have blocked social networking websites at the office, reports digital consultant Arik Hanson. And, according to a study by Steve Matthews and Doug Cornelius, 45 percent of law firms have done the same.

However, before you make an appointment with your IT Department to follow suit, consider Kevin O’Keefe’s points for “Why law firms need to stop blocking the use of social media,” on his site Real Lawyers Have Blogs:

  • Nearly all companies (94% per Digital Media Wire) are investing in social media as a marketing/communications tool. Assuming your law firm is investing in social media, but you limit social media’s use by your employees, you are saying, per Hanson, “We believe in the power of social media to help us market our products and services, we just don’t trust our employees because we think they’ll waste an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.”
  • More of your lawyers are relying on social networks to do their jobs. How often do you turn to friends and colleagues online for advice? How often do you read blogs to keep up with industry trends? Data suggests 25 percent of employees rely heavily on social networks in the workplace. It’s probably higher for your star lawyers and other professionals.
  • You’re going to lose lawyers and other professionals to competitors. Per a study by American Express, 39 percent of younger workers won’t even consider working for a company that blocks Facebook. Facebook has become the communication tool of choice for many young professionals. Why would they work for a law that’s going to block its use?
  • Smartphones and tablets. By the end of this year 50 percent of all Americans will own a smartphone. The fastest growing use of mobile? Social networking. Everywhere I travel I see lawyers with two mobile phones, a blackberry and an iPhone or Android. Your lawyers and other professionals are already using social media.
  • Breaks equal more-productive employees. Recent research suggests employees who are given short breaks to surf the Web or connect with friends on Facebook are more productive than those who don’t. No one stopped lawyers from stopping to have a cup of coffee with others, why block social media?
  • Lawyers receive work because of their relationships and word of mouth reputation. Social media and the Internet doesn’t change that. Social media is just an accelerator of relationships and the spread of your word of mouth reputation.

Consensus among the blogosphere is that blocking associates’ access to social media sites sends the signal that administrators and firm partners don’t trust associates to manage their own workload.

More importantly, managing partners should pay attention to the performance of their attorneys in the form of personal interaction instead of relying on spyware or internet censorship software.

One-on-one training and mentorship is more important a concern than worrying about your associates’ facebook friendships. So stop blocking social media websites, and start focusing on the delivery of high-quality products to your client—even if the multitasking methods your young associates use are less than traditional.

-WB

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