Nearly one-third of UK companies are blocking access to social networks over security fears even though they realise the potential benefits of adopting Web 2.0 tools, according to a new study.
The Work Life Web 2011 report, published by Clearswift, reveals that as a result of high profile data breaches such as the Sony hack many businesses are taking a "knee-jerk" reaction and banning use of sites such as Twitter and Facebook at work, according to Clearswift COO Andrew Wyatt.
UK companies blocking access to these sites rose by one-fifth to 29%, the report found. Nearly all UK companies (91%) said fears over data loss and other security concerns are actually holding back tech adoption, which could potentially stifle innovation and alienate workers, Wyatt said.
Just over half (53%) of managers identified social media usage as an issue of concern. General security fears (58%) was top of the list of concerns, followed by worries about the loss of confidential data via employees (46%), and concerns about data loss via external hacking (41%).
Speaking to CBR, Wyatt said that many companies feel a loss of control when it comes to social media and are therefore simply banning access. "It’s a knee-jerk reaction to the big news stories recently," he said. "Social media in the workplace has exploded recently and companies feel they need to be in control so the easiest thing to do is ban access."
"There is a disconnect between the older and younger generations at work," he continued. "The older members are used to publicity being controlled by a central group such as marketing, but social media rips that up. Those that don’t understand it may well block it to keep control."
Despite this many UK companies acknowledge the growing importance and influence of social media tools. Over half (58%) of the UK companies involved in the study saw web collaboration as critical to their company’s future growth and 31% said they are planning to invest more in social media this year than last.
The impact social media has had in UK businesses means that many workers have come to rely on it to do their job, and businesses looking to introduce tighter control on access could face a backlash. The study found that 18% of workers would feel de-motivated and 4% would even consider leaving. Most worryingly from a security point of view, 19% said they would find a way around the policy.
In order to get the most out of social media without compromising security, Wyatt suggests collaboration between IT and workers is the best way forward. "Social media is here to stay," he said, "so training and education is critical. For many companies a policy is signed when someone joins and then forgotten about, but they should be updated to reflect the new way employees are doing their work."
The survey was carried out online in June 2011 and spoke to 1,529 employees and 906 managers at companies from the UK, US, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan.
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