Andrew Wyatt (UK) - Worldwide clampdown on technology: Social media in the workplace: A question of trust - Part I

The latest edition of Clearswift's annual WorkLifeWeb research shows that 19% of global companies now block or discourage social media use in the workplace - a significant increase on the 9% completely blocking such services in 2010. This despite the fact that a clear 58% of businesses said they viewed web collaboration services as crucial to their future success, with 31% saying they would increase investment in social media this year. So what's going on?

With 91% of UK companies pinpointing data loss/security concerns as key inhibitors of technology adoption, Britain's directors are faced with a new dilemma as they struggle to reconcile the business benefits of social media technologies with the obvious risks they can bring. Further concerns are arising from the consumerisation of IT, a global phenomenon that has seen employees increasingly bringing their own devices into the workplace, where they expect to use them in much the same way as they do at home. As the line between work and home becomes more blurred - 62% of UK respondents report an overlap between the two - concern is building around issues of security, control and empowerment.

This push-pull relationship with technology has spilled over into workplace relationships too. Our research shows a growing attitudinal divide between workers and management when it comes to social media use in the workplace: While 48% of UK managers say social media use is allowed or encouraged, only 25% of their workforce believe this to be the case. The perception gap is even wider when it comes to personal device use: 60% of employers say it's encouraged, but only 40% of their staff agree.

It's become increasingly clear that, in the face of recent, high profile data breaches, social media and personal technology use at work have placed trust centre stage in the employer-employee relationship. With half of UK managers saying they believe employees are oblivious to security concerns, it's only fair to say the perception appears well-founded: 18% of employees admitted to not thinking about security at all when using email or the web at work. 36% of employees said security was the employer's responsibility, with 19% saying that, even if the company has a blocking policy in place, they'd simply find a way to work around it...

Cracking the whip on employee surfing and personal device use might give some managers a greater sense of control, but has an unwanted side effect of eroding employee job satisfaction and sense of trust.

With 71% of UK employees saying that being trusted to manage their time as they see fit and a further 27% reporting a longer working day thanks to new technology, a more pragmatic approach to security is called for. Companies should view devices and social media tools as extensions of the company network and adopt more flexible policies to deal with this reality. Unified, flexible policies drawing on a single, shared set of rules means businesses can apply the same set of standards and limits to all their communications channels. Policy, not policing, creates the confidence to tackle the negative side effects of communications while taking full advantage of its benefits.

By Andrew Wyatt, COO, Clearswift



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