Online Insights with Steve Davis on FIVEaa, Sunday, November 01, 2009

November 1, 2009

Stop blocking

This website has been created by a stalwart of the international PR community, Shel Holtz, to help battered, progressive managers argue and lobby for offering or maintaining employee access to social networking sites during office hours. He has said the site became necessary when self-serving companies who make money out of blocking access discovered the key to getting headlines. They simply do bad mathematics to exaggerate the cost of employee time spent on social network (usually a big number around the multi-billion-dollar mark) and the lazy, uncritical media swallow it whole and run with bold headlines designed to foment wowserism and neo-ludditism on talk shows and in boardrooms. You can see the latest stories on his site but tonight I want to share his main arguments in favour of granting access to employees, namely:

  • Well-communicated and consistently enforced policies will deal with most issues. The number of companies blocking access to social media sites is roughly on par with the number of companies without social media policies. Isn’t it possible that employees who knew what the rules were might actually follow them? Especially if they knew there were real and serious consequences for failing to do so?
  • Access to social media improves productivity. According to Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, “Using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some companies limit access.” But multiple studies prove exactly the opposite.
  • Productivity concerns are based on fatally flawed assumptions. First, there is research to suggest that every hour an employee spends at work on non-work-related websites is compensated for by an hour spent away from work on work-related activities. Do you check your work-related email on your mobile phone before you even get out of bed? Most knowledge workers say they do. Second, there are work-related benefits to social media activities, including collaboration, mindsharing and professional social networking amongst employees, affiliates and partners, according to David Lavenda of WorkLight (drawing on results from a Gartner study).
  • Employees don’t need your network. I can access any social network I like on my iPhone and my Palm Pre. I have a laptop with built-in access to the Sprint network that gets me on any site I want. Employees can (and do) bring these tools to the workplace. Your blocks have no impact. Employees can still get to Facebook all they want.
  • Who died and put CIOs in charge of worker productivity anyway? I’m not sure when supervisors and HR abdicated this responsibility to IT, but IT is simply not qualified to address employee productivity.
  • Blocking kills engagement. There are plenty of studies that tie high levels of worker engagement to increased growth and profitability. Trust is a pillar of engagement. So what happens to engagement when all employees get the same message, “We don’t trust any of you, not a single damn one of you, as far as we can throw you, so we’re blocking all of you”? Bye bye, engagement.
  • Access to social media is not an automatic invitation to viruses and malware. Those companies that do permit employee access have found ways to protect their networks. For many of the companies blocking access based on the fear of infection, it’s just easier to block than to find ways to protect the network while providing access. Laziness is not an excuse for blocking.
  • Millenials will not work for companies that block. These workers — the ones you need to hire to replace the retiring boomers — are networked 24/7 and expect the company to accommodate them. Many simply won’t work for companies that block access, which means you’re left to hire your second and third choices. Is mediocrity actually a hiring goal in your organization?
  • Bandwidth is a bogus issue. Bandwidth is the paper of the digital era. Can you imagine a company 25 years ago telling workers, “We’d love to get memos and publications to you, but we don’t have enough paper”? The very notion is absurd. They’d buy more paper. Companies pinching pennies on bandwidth are doing themselves a disservice in many more ways than one.

I think Shel makes a convincing case. Visit for more information, especially while at work!

Fun theory

There is an email doing the rounds of video of some stairs in a railway station entrance converted to amplified, piano keys. As you walk up or down the staircase, it is like you are walking on a piano. Escalators run next to the stairs. According to the film makers, stair usage increased 66 percent after installing the piano steps. The question that remains is, what other parts of the public domain could be addressed with “fun” to change habits and help us move our bodies more, loosen up, or communicate with strangers more openly?

You can watch the video below or see it on YouTube. PS On YouTube, you will find the video has a link to another of their projects – the world’s deepest bin, in which a bin was fitted with sound effects to create the illusion that rubbish deposited in it fell hundreds of feet. The bin collected 72kg of rubbish while a standard bin nearby did the usual 44kg. Makes you think!

Weird statues

Beautiful and weird statues from all around the world. This website showcases human creativity in a very public way.

I was intrigued by

  • Life too stressful for this man in LA
    Life too stressful for this man in LA

    the suspended rhinoceros,

  • the man hanging by one hand from a drain pipe jutting out over a footpath,
  • a lumberjack statue up in a branch of a tree sawing it off,
  • a business person with their head against the wall of a building,
  • large man hurling and crushing babies.

We have our share here in Adelaide, such as the pigs in the Mall, the Malls Balls, and the little aboriginal whirleys (huts) along Sir Donald Bradman Drive.

What do you think of “weird” public art? Perhaps hold off your answer until you see these weird statues yourself.

Food miles

Read a fascinating blog entry on Adelaide site, foodologist, about food miles, which is about documenting how far food has travelled before you consume it with the idea that the less it has travelled the more environmentally responsible we are being.

The blog points out that “Joe Lederman, adjunct professor of food law at Deakin University and managing principal of FoodLegal believes that ‘the concept of “food miles” is badly flawed and might well breach Australia’s free trade obligations if it was introduced as a mandatory labelling requirement nationwide’.”

Some UK supermarkets are starting to label food miles on products but that can indeed be misleading, according to the research reported by the blog, including:

  • A US survey that shows 83% of emissions comes from the growth and production of food itself, 11% from transportation and only 4% comes from the transport from paddock to the point of sale
  • A report from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand demonstrated that the New Zealand dairy industry was able to produce and deliver dairy products to the UK generating less greenhouse gas emissions that British dairy farmers who were delivering to their own domestic markets.
  • The short trips in the car you and I make to the supermarket to pick up our groceries might be more detrimental to the environment than the sea or air transport used to move bulk food over far greater distances.

You can read the blog for further discussion which goes on to say that although the concept is flawed at face value, part of what will address the emissions issue is dealing with the growing process by working in harmony with local conditions, etc – low food miles by default?

Also on the site you will see a recipe for a magnificent prawn cocktail and ready great stories of bad restaurant service.

Prepare for a feast of ideas with the foodologist.