Social Media

A Better Way to Allow Social Media into the Office

Social Media Noise

Image Credit: Ivanpw

The problem with social media is that it’s designed to trip all of our social conditioning to hook us, getting us addicted. And it’s not entirely social media’s fault – as humans we’re hardwired to be social, it’s inherent to our genetic makeup.

However, now that we have access to social outlets almost 24/7, we’re finding it hard to give up, no matter where we’re at, including at the office. All this socializing is affecting business, to the tune of $650 billion dollars each year.

So what can you do to take back control, helping to funnel that wasted energy into something productive for the company? Well you have a few options.

Option 1: Block or Monitor Social Media

When faced with loss of revenue due to low productivity, many companies opt to simply block social media all together. Others choose to install monitoring software to view employees web surfing habits, allowing them to counsel and/or terminate employees as needed.

However, there are a few big problems with either scenario. First, blocking social media actually has a detrimental effect in the office. People need to be social, we’re wired that way, and cutting off this ability to socialize can be akin to cutting off an arm to some people.

Additionally, blocks and monitoring software can be easily circumvented these days because of smart phones. Knowing their being watched, employees will find other ways to access their social media, including playing on their phone which isn’t on the corporate network.

Option 2: Create an In-House Social Network

However, studies are finding there’s a much better way to handle this drive to be social – by harnessing it in a corporate setting. Instead of blocking the sites we crave, many companies are simply converting this behavior into something more appropriate, by providing in-house social media outlets.

Studies find that companies with an in-house, private social network not only increase morale, but productivity as well. Employees that socialize have better interactions and work together more effectively.

Additionally, an in-house social network has been known to foster a sense of corporate community, a win-win for any company.

So the next time you’re concerned about your employees spending too much time online, consider doing something that will help boost morale, productivity, and ultimately your company, rather than squash it.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help you boost your employee productivity without sacrificing morale. Email: [email protected]. Website:

Google Reader Says Goodbye, Leaves Users Looking for Alternatives

Google Reader

Image Credit: benstein

If you follow more than a few blogs, you probably use an RSS reader to manage your subscriptions. (And if you don’t, you probably should. Keep reading to find out why.)

But what happens when your favorite reader service suddenly announces plans to close?

This is exactly the situation Google Reader users find themselves in, as Google announced that they would be shutting down the service for good as of July 1, 2013.

Now, users of the service are scratching their heads, wondering where they’ll end up this summer.

What is an RSS Reader?

Rich Site Summary, or RSS, also known as Really Simple Syndication, is a way to publish frequently updated web works, such as blog posts, headlines, audio, and video, in a standardized format. RSS Readers allow website owners, or publishers, to easily syndicate their content easily.

Additionally, RSS allows readers to organize and collect constantly changing content in a feed that they can review and read at their leisure, without having to visit the actual website it was published on.

Why is Google Stopping the Google Reader Service?

Since 2011, Google has been actively involved in spring cleaning, that is, cleaning up products and services that no longer serve the company or its users. As part of this cleanup, services were reviewed to determine popularity and usage.

Google Reader didn’t make the cut, mostly because service usage has declined over the years, and Google feels that their focus can better be served elsewhere.

Exporting Your Google Reader Data

If you are a Google Reader user, you don’t have to worry about manually moving all your data. Instead, use the Google Takeout service to export your information and move it to a new RSS service. Please note, you only have until July 1, 2013 to export your Reader data.

Just login to your Google Account on the Takeout page, wait until it loads your reader services, and click Create Archive. You can then import your archive using any RSS service that allows you to import OPML files.

What Next?

Once your data is exported, you will need to find another reader to use. You can either sign up with a free reader service online, locate a browser based plug-in, or download an app for your mobile device. Then, import your OPML file, and you’re back to following your favorite blogs, just like before.   

Want to see what other services Google is cutting? Read the full list on their blog.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help stay on top of the changes to your favorite services. Email:[email protected]. Website:

Should You Monitor or Block Internet Activity at the Office?

iNet Protector 4

Image Credit: mihalysoft

Monitoring online activity at work is still a controversial subject. Many are concerned that putting such a system in place may potentially infringe upon employee’s rights and may cause hidden consequences in the workplace. Are these concerns founded?

While there is some truth to the concerns, by and large employers have every right to secure the internet in the office, but just because you can, does this mean you should?

It depends. The decision should stem from many factors, including your employees. However the most important factor you should take into consideration is the culture you are trying to perpetuate in the office.

How internet monitoring is deployed can make or break the culture, and can send strong messages to your staff. If done correctly, employees understand that it’s a way to ensure office productivity. If done incorrectly, it can send the message that you don’t trust your employees, and can cause paranoia in the office.

So should you monitor internet activity at the office? Well, that also depends. Here’s a list of pros and cons to help you determine if internet monitoring and website blocking is right for your business.


Increased Productivity

The obvious pro to monitoring internet activity is to increase office productivity by reducing non-work related internet activity.

Reduction of Viruses and Malware

Internet monitoring often gives you the ability to also block certain sites, which may help your company reduce malware and viruses on office computers.

Reduced Risk of Sexual Harassment / Other Charges

Monitoring and blocking internet activity can also help reduce the risk of sexual harassment and types of other charges, by reducing the ability to access explicit and inappropriate websites.


May Block Necessary Sites

Sometimes when internet blocks are too broad, it may actually impact your employees ability to get their work done, particularly when a site the actually need for work is blocked.

Could Signal Distrust

Depending on how the monitoring and blocking is done, you could signal to your employees that you don’t trust them, which could impact office moral.

Could Infringe on Employee Rights

Suppose an employee is dealing with abuse issues at home, and they use the company internet to research their options. Your IT guy notices this, and for whatever reason decides to discuss it with yet another employee in the break room. Now the first employee’s secret is out, about a sensitive issue they may not be ready to discuss with anyone, let alone the office. While this example is extreme, it does happen.

A Better Way to Monitor

Instead of blocking the internet entirely at the office, try these solutions as a better way to monitor the internet. Your employees will thank you for it.

Inform of the Internet Policy

Don’t just implement the internet policy without telling anyone, and certainly don’t bury the policy deep within your employee manual. Instead, take the time to inform the entire office of the change, and the reasons for implementing the policy. Then, have new employees read, and sign, the internet policy rules separately from the employee manual, to help them fully understand what they can and can’t go on the internet at the office.

Block Sites, Skip Keystroke Logging

If possible, try blocking sites only, instead of also logging keystrokes. This helps you reduce the obvious offending sites – pornographic sites, Facebook, etc. – without blocking all access to the internet, and without obtaining information such as usernames and passwords, which get logged with keystroke software.

Designated Surfing Time

Instead of blocking the internet all the time, give employees certain periods of the day – say lunch time – where they can surf the web unhindered. This shows that you understand the importance of them needing to balance their work and personal life, without letting it get out of hand in the workplace.

Similarly, you could also create an internet café in the break room, with computers that have open internet access. Businesses often give employees access to snack and soda machines, and give smokers smoke breaks, so why not let your employees take an internet break?

These are just some ways you can help take the pain out of monitoring internet activity in the office. Has your office implemented internet monitoring or website blocking? What did you do to reduce employee concerns?

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help make your office culture a little bit better. Email: [email protected].