At IT company Cisco , employees are given freedom to access personal social media accounts, which are sometimes used for work purposes, says Brett Belding, senior manager of IT mobility services.
"We encourage the use of both internal and external social media by all our employees. We have developed practical guidelines on how to use corporate and personal accounts," Belding says. "There are some employees, like me, who use the same account for both personal and work-related communication. I think this actually humanizes the company and showcases personality. We think it's important to be able to blend the two."
Increasingly, companies are seeing that the restriction of Internet access hurts workplace morale, says John Martin, partner at the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
"Most employers have reached the conclusion that it's unrealistic to ask an employee to completely suspend their digital life when they enter the workplace," Martin says. "The reality is that if something is restricted on a desktop, mobile devices are completely integrated into the daily aspect of every employee's life, and they're not going to leave those behind when they come to work."
Since employees who want a digital distraction need look no further than a pants pocket or purse to find one, Martin says the best strategy for curtailing social media use is a simple reminder that Internet activity on all company devices can be tracked.
"The most important thing any employer can communicate is that whatever you do on the Internet through a company-owned device can be tracked either in real time or after the fact," Martin says. "That can be as big a deterrent as anything else."
One deterrent that should never be used is to completely block all external Internet content, Belding says.
"The approach shouldn't be to block content through a firewall. Rather, employers need to understand that today's employees live a blended lifestyle that can involve accessing personal materials during the work day," Belding says. "We don't mind if you check your Facebook during the day, because we know sometimes work requires you to take a 9 p.m. call. Cisco measures individuals on what you deliver, not how many hours you sit in a chair."
Measuring employees on performance has never been more important than it is in today's digital age, says David Rosenbaum, president of IT consulting firm Real-Time Computer Services.
"The real issue is a management issue, not an Internet access issue," Rosenbaum says. "In many ways, Internet distractions are not materially different from old-style-media distractions like employees reading the newspaper at their desks, or browsing catalogs or spending time talking at the water cooler. The only difference with the Internet is that browsing and interacting can consume exorbitant amounts of time, and can be achieved surreptitiously."
With that said, productivity in the workplace is at an all-time high, Mazur notes. Even with more access to social media, the American workforce is still "highly productive," meaning employees on the whole aren't ignoring their job duties in favor of Facebook.
"Access to quick info and data is a given in today's environment," Mazur says. "Employees are going to be getting texts from kids and messages on Facebook during the day, and they're going to be happier when their employer trusts them enough to allow access to that type of content."
By Kathryn Tuggle