News Column

UAE Offices Restrict Social Media Access

Nov. 1, 2012

Dhanusha Gokulan, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Britney Spears

Let's face it. All of us have played Farmville, uploaded pictures of --last night--s debauchery--, and spent several hours re-tweeting Britney Spears inane messages on work time.

For some, social networking is all about making prospective business contacts on Linkedin and Twitter. For others, it's a distraction.

"You cannot be expected to work continuously for eight hours a day," said banking professional Tanu Joshi.

A majority of businesses in the region restrict employee access to social media platforms, according to a new survey of IT professionals conducted by Gulf Business Machines (GBM). The survey found that a majority of the more than 900 respondents who participated were subject to social media access restrictions in the workplace -- ranging from partial to blanket.

While 32 percent of the respondents reported unrestricted access to social media, just over a third (35 per cent) of those polled claimed that their organizations' IT policies completely prohibited access. An additional 33 per cent said that they experienced 'partial' restrictions.

asked a few residents working in Dubai aif they faced a social media ban in the office.

Most respondents said they thought banning sites like Facebook would increase employee productivity, but they said it also depended on the sector that people worked in. Self-control was also an important factor according to few, as they said they knew people who had the tendency to spend hours browsing Facebook statuses.

"It's pointless to block social networking websites in mass media corporations. But in a financial or banking sector, there is not much benefit to employees browsing social media sites (though) it does take the stress off work," added Joshi.

However, Serbian national and aviation industry professional Mladen Stojic said he did not think social media should be blocked in the office.

"It's a great way to kill time and people should be allowed to do so."

GBM director of intelligent network solutions Hani Nofal said though the findings did not come as a surprise, it was a clear indication of how seriously enterprises took the potential impact of social media on productivity.

"The challenge that businesses face is in finding a middle ground which allows them to tap into the power of social media, while ensuring that it does not negatively impact productivity."

Nofal added: "One option that is being considered is the adoption of social media-based collaborative tools that have specifically been developed for an enterprise environment."

The survey also found that 'Bring Your Own Device' policies are being widely implemented across the region. Sixty-two percent of the IT professionals polled said their employers allowed them to connect their own devices to company networks.

The study also revealed that a third of those polled owned up to three personal devices, such as smart phones and tablets, one in ten owned five or more such devices.

However, only 6.2 percent admitted to owning one device.

Adam D'Souza, a civil engineer said Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube was banned in his office.

"But I get updates on my BlackBerry. I don't think it is a distraction, because I check my phone for social media updates only every 15- 20 minutes in a day."

Another Dubai resident and banking professional Jai Jethlani said he only checked for updates on his Facebook profile on his phone, and not his work computer.

"It's not banned in my office, but personally it is a huge distraction for me."


Parth Kikani, 30, works in the finance sector

"No social networking websites are blocked at my work place. A lot of it depends on the individual's self-control. You might be a lot more productive if you spend about five to 10 minutes on Facebook every couple of hours. You can take a quick break and get back to work feeling refreshed."

Reshma K, 27, ex-employee of Dubal

"It used to be blocked in our offices. I have noticed that a lot of employees end up wasting time on social networking sites. Instead, you can browse these from home. There will be a drastic reduction in productivity in offices where people have access to social networking websites."

Warren Mizzi, 27, aviation industry professional

"Blocking these sites is actually pointless. Access to social networking websites could lead to a lot of business opportunities. You can make contacts on sites like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook to further business opportunities."

E S Vikas, 37, telecommunication professional

"A lot of it depends on the discipline of the employees. If you are the sort who uses it for the benefit of the business, then it is well and good. You obviously cannot work for eight hours in a day, and if you check your updates once every half an hour there is no harm done. More than the organisation, a lot depends on individual discipline."

Nithu Joseph, 25, banking professional

"I am not constantly active on social networking websites. I look out for updates only my mobile phone. If you are addicted to social networking, it will tamper with your productivity. But organisations must also understand that employees are not school children, and they cannot be 'banned' from using websites. It seems very autocratic if that is the case."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: (c) 2012 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

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