Earlier today I had a conversation with a client from a UK local authority about the impact of social media and web 2.0 on the workplace. I made my point that it is important to break the boundary between personal and professional profiles if one wants to leverage the power of social networking (as I said in a previous post). He replied that a boundary should be maintained, especially if workers use government equipment to join social networks: in fact they may be seen as misusing government assets and services by spending time on social networks for personal purposes. This seems to be an even thornier problem with elected officials (such as counselors) who may be engaging with individuals outside both in their capacity of elected officials and as politicians.
The discussion soon moved toward whether the problem could be solved – or at least relieved – by having counselors (and other employees) use personal equipment.
This implies a shift from preventing the use of professional tools for personal use to allowing the professional use of personal tool. But then, if one looks at personal social networks as a tool, why shouldn’t they be used for professional purposes?
Think about an employee who helps citizens with re-employment. He or she may have a profile in LinkedIn for personal purposes, and being in LinkedIn from the professional perspective would make a lot of sense (e.g. to explore job opportunities for the people he or she assists). However it is quite possible that the personal connections he or she has developed when using LinkedIn as a personal tool, could help find further opportunities for those people. Therefore putting allowing personal connections to be used for professional purposes would help him or her do a better job.
Where does one draw the line? If one is prepared to let an employee carry his or her smartphone or laptop, why not his or her social network connections, which are likely to be far more beneficial to the organization?