According to the Globe and Mail, government employees in Ontario have been banned from accessing Facebook. Kristen at Mashable points out that YouTube, online poker, and various other sites are also banned. And Mark Evans points to this story about TD Bank banning Facebook during business hours. There are undoubtedly many other major organizations that have banned access to Facebook and other social networking sites.
I think these bans are ridiculous. And Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty makes it easy to understand why:
“I think Facebook is predominantly a social network. It has its value, but we just don’t really see how it adds value to work that you do in the workplace.”
You sir, Mr. McGuinty, are an idiot.
When you don’t understand something, the correct course of action is to learn about it. Admit you don’t know something, and then find out what it is that you don’t know!
The idea that work exists only between the hours of 9 to 5, and only in your place of business, is dead. Welcome to the 21st century. Human behaviour has changed, and it’s time that the workplace caught up.
I am reminded of something Leonard Brody said yesterday (I am paraphrasing here):
People often say “oh email, instant messaging, there’s too much information, I can’t take it!” Well, you’re all liars. You thrive on more.
It’s true. Employees today can be incredibly productive, so long as their employers make it possible. Banning them from something like Facebook isn’t going to help. There are no doubt many people working for the Ontario government who are part of an older generation, one that isn’t trained to be connected all the time. Perhaps banning Facebook won’t affect them much.
The ban sets a dangerous precedent, however. The next generation of workers the government hires simply won’t stand for it. They are fundamentally different, wired to be connected 24/7. To them, Facebook is both entertainment and work. It’s a tool, not a time-waster. They’ll use it to connect with friends, and they’ll use it to connect with colleagues. Banning Facebook for these workers will definitely hinder their productivity.
Don’t be surprised to read about the Ontario government reversing this decision sometime in the next two years. I don’t think they’ll have any other choice.