Dragons Den personality, Theo Paphitis, has an article in the Daily Mail today (illustrious journal that it may or may not be) challenging employers to ban Facebook in the workplace because Facebook represents an inordinate waste of time. The comments in response to the article are bleating their support of Paphitis like so many blind sheep and the issue will no doubt hit other news media in coming days.
The article and Paphitis’s challenge are both ridiculous and inaccurate. Paphitis cites the recent Portsmouth City Council decision to ban Facebook, stating that its employees spend 400 hours per month on the social networking site. Paphitis assumes without question that this is an horrendous waste of time. In fact, for the Council’s 4500 employees, this 400 hours represents less than 6 minutes on Facebook per employee per month. Not per hour, per day or per week. 6 minutes per month. On average staff spend more than 6 minutes per day, or 2 hours per month in the toilet. Further, Porstmouth City Council actually recognise that Facebook use can be for business purposes, and are prepared to allow staff to use Facebook where required, including responding to issues raised on Facebook by Portsmouth Council‘s own constituency.
Now this issue is hardly new, and I have often felt that there’s a lot of stuff on Facebook I personally regard as a hideous waste of my time, but the issue here is not whether the majority of Facebook is a waste of time, but it is instead about employee respect for their tasks and pride in their work. Frankly, 6 minutes per month spent on Facebook instead of around the water cooler is so marginal it’s irrelevant. But if some employees are spending much more time on non-business related activities than others, then they lack respect for the work they do. Placing a blanket ban on Facebook use for these employees is a dictatorial and ultimately pointless exercise, as these employees will simply find something else non-business related to do with their time. They are not addicted to Facebook. They are bored, unhappy and uninterested in the work they do.
Rather than banning Facebook bosses should be considering new ways to encourage such staff to take pride in their work and to allow them to innovate for the activities they do and in the workplace more broadly.
Epic FAIL, Paphitis.