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THE MAJORITY of workers believe that employers benefit from allowing their employees to access social networking sites such as Facebook at work, a Deacons survey has found. The survey results…

THE MAJORITY of workers believe that employers benefit from allowing their employees to access social networking sites such as Facebook at work, a Deacons survey has found.

The survey results also indicated that an organisation’s policy on accessing social networking sites may affect their chances of recruiting workers, and particularly younger workers.

The Deacons Social Networking Survey 2008 surveyed nearly 700 people from across the country, with the aim of providing a snapshot of internet use in Australian workplaces.

All up, around 16 per cent of the survey respondents who have access to the internet at work use social networking sites. However, this was significantly higher among younger workers, with a third of 16—24 years olds and a quarter of 23—34 years olds using these sites at work.

Forty-six per cent of those that use social networking sites said that if given a choice between two jobs that were equal in all other respects, they would chose the employer that allowed access to these sites.

In addition, 76 per cent of workers who have access to the internet believe that employers derive benefit from allowing employees to have access to social networking sites. Sixty-eight per cent said it showed employees that they were trusted, 48 per cent said it gave them a break and kept them fresh, and 40 per cent said it allowed them to network better with fellow employees, customers and suppliers.

The head of Deacons technology, media and telecommunications practice, Nick Abrahams, who has developed a niche practice advising organisations on how to manage the impact of Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook and YouTube, believes the survey results highlight the challenges employers are facing in this area.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly recently, Abrahams said that by allowing access to these sites, organisations face a heightened risk of discrimination, harassment and copyright claims, and organisations should at the very least have policies in place to deal with these issues. Some organisations are also concerned about the impact on worker productivity and system performance. However, the survey results suggest that these risks need to be balanced against other risks employers face if they block these sites completely, such as the risk of alienating themselves from younger workers.

“To block [social networking sites] has essentially an ill effect on the ability [of generation Y workers] to perform as they do normally,” Abrahams said.

“Our research suggests organisations need to weigh these risks and learn to manage them, as they have for other technologies such as like email, instant messaging and the internet itself. Getting the balance right is particularly important in an economy with low levels of unemployment and intense competition for young talent.”

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