“Can you block Facebook?”  We get this question when a business owner is frustrated by employees spending too much time on Facebook (or other social media) during the business day.

When I’m asked the question, I usually respond, “We can, but should we?” This push-back can lead to a longer conversation around business culture, employee rights and responsibilities, and even security.

So, should you block Facebook just because you can?  It depends.

Your Internet Use Policy

First, consider your company’s Internet Use Policy.  If you don’t have a policy, make the time to develop one.  A well-written policy will detail your company’s stance on the acceptable use of social media during business hours on company-owned machines.  It will also outline the consequences for misuse.

Without specific policies, expectations for social media use are unclear to everyone.  This makes it difficult to hold anyone accountable for wasting time, posting inappropriately, or otherwise using poor judgment online.

Decide Who Needs Access

Who in your company actually needs access to social media to successfully do their jobs?  For sales and marketing people, it might be an essential tool.  If your company doesn’t engage on social media, consider blocking it for all employees to avoid confusion.

Even if you suspect misuse, we recommend against blocking social media sites for only one employee.  Instead, block the sites for everyone.  You can unblock the sites for key employees who use them for business purposes.

Security Risks

Aside from being “time-wasters”, Facebook and other social media sites are also potential security risks.  One click on an infected link could cause substantial harm to your entire network.  By blocking use on office machines, you’re potentially thwarting an unintentional data breach.

Make the Best Decision for Your Business

Blocking social media might appear to be a quick way to correct a challenging employee.  However, if an employee is performing poorly as measured by missed deadlines, ignored phone calls or emails and quantifiably low productivity, it’s unlikely that social media alone is the reason.

The bottom line is that blocking a site is typically not the sole answer to improve employee productivity.  Your policies and well-communicated expectations are critical.

Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of employee social media use in your company and make the best decision for your business.