TECH
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

No Facebook At Work: Majority of US Companies Block Social Networks

There are some basic rules about social media in the workplace that we've all come to terms with: think twice before "friending" your boss, immediately detag incriminating Friday night photos, and be careful what you Tweet.

But a new study from Robert Half Technology, a consulting firm, shows that for many US employees, monitoring content on their social networks isn't the problem -- accessing them is.

The survey found that more than half of US workplaces block their employees' access to social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Fifty-four percent of businesses block social networks "completely," and another 19 percent permit access only for "business purposes."

Here were the results from the research, which surveyed over 1,400 chief information officers (CIOs) from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees:

CIOs were asked, "Which of the following most closely describes your company's policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, while at work?"

Their responses:

Prohibited completely: 54%
Permitted for business purposes only: 19%
Permitted for limited personal use: 16%
Permitted for any type of personal use: 10%
Don't know/no answer: 1%

Yet it's worth noting that although 54 percent of businesses admit to blocking social networks completely, the vast majority (89 percent) do impose some (albeit vague) limits on their employees' access to sites like Facebook and Twitter.

What are they so afraid of -- impropriety, procrastination, counter-productivity?

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, observes:

Using social networking sites may divert employees' attention away from more pressing priorities, so it's understandable that some companies limit access.

Does that mean water coolers and other favorite office break-spots should go too? And what about online games: a gaming site, cantyouseeimbusy.com, estimates it's cost the world economy 312,722 Euros (about $460,000) in wasted work time. If workers want to slack off, chances are they'll do it with or without Facebook.

It's also true that social networks increase the risk of saying too much, to too many people. As Jon-Barrett Ingels learned after he was fired from his job a restaurant for Tweeting about the celebrities he waited on, there are times when workplace affairs should be left off the web. But can't most employees be trusted to exercise good judgment?

Moreover, it's possible that blocking employees from accessing Facebook and Twitter could actually be counterproductive for some companies, who could benefit from chatty employees promoting their brand, collaborating together over the web, and getting real-time news updates from their online peers.

What do you think: are these CIOs Luddites who need to understand the positive potential of these new communication tools and get with times? Or should the block stay on?