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Blocking Social Media at Work: Is it Increasing or Decreasing Productivity? Blog Feature
Corey Stevens

By: Corey Stevens on August 28th, 2019

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Blocking Social Media at Work: Is it Increasing or Decreasing Productivity?

Ask An IT Guy

Social media can be a wonderful tool for some job roles and a major distraction for others. One of the things we regularly hear from executives is, “how do I give my people access to the websites they need without it being a drain on productivity?”

You want to make sure your employees are as productive as possible without too many roadblocks, but you also want to limit access to certain things for certain people. We get it.

The good news is, there are tools you can use to do just that.

Let’s dive into what social media blocking is, and how to make sure people have access to the right resources for their job.

What Is Social Media Blocking?

Many organizations have some type of website filtering solution in place. This device or software is essentially a stop light for all web traffic on your network, giving a red light to certain sites.

If your company has one of these, you may have come across a “website blocked” message a time or two. It can be frustrating when it happens, especially if it’s to a website that you need to access for your job. However, many executives are exempt from web filtering restrictions, so you may not have experienced this to the extent that your employees have.

The rules around what gets blocked and allowed are usually set by your IT team in an attempt to fend off cyber security threats and keep employees from visiting sites they shouldn’t. In many cases, social media sites are included on the blocked list.

Too Many Web Restrictions Can Decrease Productivity

It may sound counter-intuitive since one of the purposes of the web filter is to increase productivity, but too many website restrictions can actually decrease productivity if they aren’t set appropriately.

While there’s value in restricting access to certain websites to safeguard your network, there are times when access to these sites might be necessary for an employee to get their job done.

The challenge with social media sites is that company-wide access isn’t black and white.

Does your accounting team need access to social media? Probably not.

What about sales and marketing? Probably yes.

They may need access to websites like LinkedIn or Facebook to market your business online, or to do research on prospective clients. If they’re blocked from these websites, they’re stopped in their tracks. A roadblock like this is not only frustrating, it also interrupts their workflow and decreases productivity.

Related: Find out how to close your biggest security holes with our on-demand webinar.

What Happens When A Website Is Blocked?

When access to a necessary webpage is blocked, it typically requires immediate attention.

The employee has three choices at this point:

1) Move on to a different task. 2) Use their cell phone to visit the website. 3) Contact their IT department.

If they really need this website to get their job done, option one doesn’t do them much good.

Using their cell phone may be a viable workaround in some cases, but it’s just that – a workaround. It’s not a long-term solution.

If they have a legitimate business reason to visit social media sites, then using their cell phone is going to be inefficient. It also doesn’t give the best impression for an employee to be seen perusing Facebook on their cell phone. Even if they are hard at work, it can easily be misinterpreted by others.

Their third option is to contact the IT department for access. Hopefully you have a responsive IT support team and the employee’s issue is handled quickly, but a request like this may take more time.

In some cases, the IT department may deny the request, saying those sites are intentionally restricted to protect against cyber security threats. It’s a valid concern, but at the same time, it comes back to whether this activity is deemed necessary to get the job done. If it is, continuing to block it would be damaging to productivity.

However, standard procedure would be for IT to reach out to an authorized executive for approval to unblock the site. Ultimately, the employee could end up waiting on you for access.

How Can You Make Sure Employees Have the Right Access?

There are a few ways you and your IT department can work together to make sure employees can still get their job done, while balancing the security concerns.

1. Group your employees by department and decide what kind of website access each department needs. For example, sales and marketing may need access to social media and business networking sites, while HR needs access to career websites.

2. Review the exceptions. You may have employees who do more than one role, requiring unique access to websites. For example, you might have an employee whose main role is customer service, but they also help out in HR. For this person, you may choose to grant them special access to certain website categories.

You could even make exceptions for specific websites company-wide or just for certain users, if needed.

The good news is that you can get as broad or as granular as you want with regard to what people can and can’t access. Just be clear with your IT department on who needs access to what.

3. Decide how requests for access will be handled. Inevitably, a website will be blocked and an employee will ask for permission to access it. You and your IT team should work together to figure out how these kinds of requests will be handled.

Continuous Review Keeps People Working

Reviewing web access company-wide once is good, but it needs to be reviewed regularly to keep up with the ever-changing world of cyber security threats and job role changes. 

If you’re not sure your staff has the internet access they need, while staying safe from cyber security threats, feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’re here to make your life easier through fast, friendly, frustration-free IT services.