June 11, 2010
Give me Facebook or give me unemployment?
Would you turn your nose up at a job that didn't allow you to access your personal e-mail or social networking sites like Facebook on company time? One in five younger workers would, says a new survey from London-based software security company Clearswift.
[Image by Oversocialized]
With a new crop of college grads getting turned loose on the job market this weekend, I have to say, really? In the worst job drought since your great-grandparents were trudging eleventy-million miles in the snow to line up for a few scraps of three-week-old bread, you would pass on an employer just because they want you to do your job while you are at work?
But it's not just about being able to conduct your personal business on company time, says Clearswift, which polled 1,600 managers and employees in the UK, United States, Germany, and Australia this January and February for the survey. It's about having autonomy at work and having a manager who trusts that you're adult enough to get the job done in the allotted time, even if you do dash off a few personal e-mails or Facebook status updates during business hours.
Clearswift calls such workers "Generation Standby" because they "never seem to fully switch off from work or home," especially now that employment hours have become so demanding and technology makes it so dangerously easy to work (or slack) around the clock.
So how much of this standby generation takes some online personal time while at the office? According to the Clearswift survey, 57 percent of 25- to 34-year-old respondents said they use the web for personal purposes at work, be it checking their social media accounts, sending e-mail, or shopping. And 66 percent of respondents said they stay at work later or skip lunch to compensate for time they spend conducting personal business online.
As Clearswift Global HR Director Hilary Backwell says, "[T]his cultural shift raises new questions about trust in the workplace, the use of new technologies, the balance of power in the employer vs. employee relationship, and levels of control that businesses now have over people and content."
I like my job autonomy as much as the next working stiff. And I agree that it's a tad over the top (not to mention a bit micromanaging) for an employer to block employee access to social media sites. But it's hard to blame budget-conscious employers for wanting to put the kibosh on what the Wall Street Journal calls cyberslacking when study after study shows workers admitting to goofing off on the web or elsewhere two hours a day.
In her recent article about the prospect of Facebook-free workplaces, Wall Street Journal reporter Sarah Needleman highlighted a couple of small business owners who have struck a compromise with employees about on-the-job cyberslacking. My favorite is the owner of a merger-advisory firm in Colorado who Needleman interviewed. Since installing tracking software on his employees' computers and discovering that they were using 45 minutes of each day to conduct their personal business online, he's dedicated an office solely to "nonwork-related internet activities." That way, if his employees need to pay a few bills online or e-mail a friend about upcoming travel plans during the workday, they don't need to waste their lunch hour looking for a wifi cafe and they don't have to worry about their internet use being tracked.
Of course, not all business owners are as understanding of their employees having a life outside work. So for all the new grads out there worried about Facebook-free workplaces, I have a suggestion: If you can't bear to not use social media during business hours, go into marketing, public relations, community outreach work, or another communications-based field. That way, you can sit on Facebook and Twitter all day long and get paid to do it.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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