In today’s increasing digital era, social media is playing a greater role in every facet of people’s lives. This is true not only in people’s personal lives but is becoming more evident in the working environment too. In some sectors, Snapchat – which is normally considered to be an app to share amusing pictures between friends – is now being used as a platform to share ideas between colleagues in the workplace.

However, not all businesses are this innovative when it comes to social networks. New research, conducted by Ricoh UK has found that almost half of UK businesses have banned Facebook in their office. A further 34 per cent have banned Twitter with another 31 per cent banning Snapchat and 29 per cent outlawing WhatsApp.

These stats should be a concern not only for the employees but also for business leaders, who risk damaging their brand’s reputation among the wider business community. By using social networks in the workplace, employees have the opportunity to explore different tools which form a key part of their daily lives. These networks not only allow workers to develop their own, unique digital workstyles but also in bigger organisations, allows employees to communicate with colleagues in other offices around the world.

From the business’s point of view, if a number of social networks are prohibited, employees may begin to leave the organisation to work with companies that don’t enforce such draconian tactics. This will not only put them at a disadvantage in terms of their competitors, but also when it comes to hiring new talent. Furthermore, in smaller industries a brand’s reputation risks being harmed, because employees from rival businesses may discuss these issues with peers at industry events.

Whilst some businesses believe that social networks can be detrimental to their employees due to the levels of distraction, this is not the case. Social networks allow for more collaboration among colleagues, for example using chat functions.  The fact that employees use a number of these social networks outside of work, means a greater level of familiarity and comfort is brought to their working environment. New and innovative technologies is part of everyday life nowadays and work should be now different. Employers should be looking at the best ways to embrace new technologies and on the lookout for ways to improve collaboration between their employees.

Sometimes however, employers are unable to, or unwilling to unban social accounts either for fear of workers being distracted during the day or simply because they’re unable to. There are however other ways in which bosses can ensure their workers remain motivated and their brand is not damaged within their respective industries. Ricoh’s research also revealed that 46 per cent of UK workers want wearable devices with health apps added to their employee packages, demonstrating that this new technology is demanded from British workers to help improve their flexible working opportunities. Wearable devices with health-apps pre-installed on them will mean workers should experiment with these health apps by alternating the way they get to work – either by cycling or walking. By exercising before the work day begins, employees will be more motivated and come to work refreshed and likely be more proactive during the working day.

Skills training is another option which organisations can offer to employees if their unwilling to un-ban social networks. It’s not only beneficial to employees and their development but by offering these, an organisation’s reputation will be enhanced within the sector – for example a potential employee will often choose to go to an organisation where they can develop continue their own career development – either through training or promotions – over one which they cannot.

Social networks are becoming more important in people’s personal lives but also increasingly in their working lives too. With this in mind, banning social networks in the workplace can be regarded as a heavy handed strategy, which will leave their workers struggling to find new and innovative ways to collaborate with their colleagues, especially if they work in an international office. Employers also risk doing serious reputational damage to their brand. There is the possibility that workers will leave in order to find a more innovative company to work for. If this begins to happen frequently, a brand may gain a bad reputation with their sector. Therefore, those managers that have banned social networks should re-think their strategy, to not only gain a more collaborative and innovative workforce, but also ensure they don’t do their brand’s reputation irreversible damage.

Chas Moloney

Chas Moloney


Chas Moloney, Director, Ricoh UK.