Alpesh Kapadia, a middle-level executive in a Mumbai-based software services’ major, is livid. His company recently blocked Orkut, the social networking website owned by Google.
He is not alone. Companies, mainly those into information technology, are blocking social networking sites such as Ryze, LinkedIn and MySpace to prevent employees from accessing them during office hours. IT companies like I-flex, iGate, Datamatics, Mastek, Patni and others have all done so. They feel these sites are a major distraction, hampering productivity, contributing to attrition, increasing costs and even have the potential to saddle them with lawsuits.
“I used Orkut to network with people with similar tastes,” says Kapadia. A software developer, he used the site to meet Linux applications developers and discuss new technologies. He also pursued his interest in music through the site, and planned weekends with friends.
“If you block these sites, employees who frequent them during office hours get upset. But if you don’t, there is a tendency for employees to visit these sites too frequently. This is counter-productive,” said Khushroo Pithawala, senior vice-president, Datamatics.
“A lot of information flows through these site servers into the public domain, and there is a risk of someone misusing this information,” said an iGate spokesperson.
Companies are also wary of employees spending office hours job-hunting. “Allowing access to such sites amounts to encouraging employee poaching from one’s own company, as employment agencies have access to them too,” said Pradeep Mukherjee, MD, Tholons, an IT advisory firm.
“For companies, operational costs go up as communicating with these sites adds to network traffic,” says Pithawala.
Also, companies are wary of facing lawsuits and reputation concerns if some harmful content is posted on the site.