Over Half Of UK Companies Block Social Media at Work

Feel like your workplace is clamping down on social media use? You’re not alone. A new survey reveals more and more employers are blocking Twitter and Facebook at work.

Feel like your workplace is clamping down on social media use? You’re not alone. A new survey reveals more and more employers are blocking Twitter and Facebook at work.
Clearswift, a security software company based in the United Kingdom, released the latest addition of its WorkLifeWeb2011 report. The report was conducted using an online survey of 1529 employees and 906 managers in companies in the United States, the United Kingdom , Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan. According to Clearswift, people who chose to participate in the survey were screened for company sizes (the survey requires the company size to consist of 250 employees or more). The survey was conducted in June 2011, and it complements the Workplace research from 2010.

The report outlines attitudes towards technology and social media in the workplace. According to the research, 68% of companies surveyed monitor internet activity and 56% of companies surveyed block access to some social media sites. Further, 87% of companies were concerned with security and data loss as a result of social media use in the workplace.

These numbers are a significant increase from the 2010 WorkLifeWeb study. In 2010, Clearswift’s study revealed that only 9% of companies blocked employee access to social media sites; in 2011, this number has risen to 19%. The practice of blocking social media sties is most obvious in Germany and Australia as well as the United States.

According to Anew Wyatt, Chief Operating Officer with Clearswift: ““It’s clear that we have seen some significant changes in attitude to social media in the last twelve months. Businesses have reacted to the series of high profile data leaks and have become increasingly nervous about its usage in the workplace. Rather than embracing new channels of communication, companies have clamped down and become overtly defensive which is consequently stifling potential avenues of growth. However, the research also provides evidence that businesses do recognise the importance of new technologies which leads me to believe that this is a knee jerk reaction rather than a long term trend.”

Interestingly, there is a divide between employees and managers in the way that social media use is perceived in the workplace. According to the study, while 48% of managers note that social media is allowed or encouraged in their company, only 25% of employees agree. Further, while 60% of companies state they allow the use of personal devices such as Blackberries and iPhones in the work place, only 40% of workers believe this to be the case. According to the study, employees don’t necessarily believe that increased social media use in the workplace is a good thing; 23% of employees report believing that social media and personal device use leads to a longer working day. Clearswfit explains this belief by noting that 70% of employees feel that email and social networking impacts concentration in the workplace.

The divide between employers and employees also exists in the perceived security risks social media poses. According to the study, 57% of managers express security concerns over social media. However, according to the press release “if a company was to introduce stricter social media guidelines, the employee backlash would be significant: 26% would become demotivated, 14% would work around the policy and 3% would consider leaving.”

So, it seems that a theme for employers and employees in the last 12 months has been how and whether to use social media in the workplace, and while the two groups don’t always meet eye to eye, both sides have felt the impact of social media at work.