Are social networks good for job productivity?

Cons of Social Networking at Work

Twitter co-founder and CEO Evan Williams -- joining "the people" via online tweets. 
Twitter co-founder and CEO Evan Williams -- joining "the people" via online tweets. 
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Should you be allowed to twitter while you're at work? And, if you do, will your boss be "following" your little 140-character "tweets"? What might be the consequences of social networking at work?

Social networking has created a buzz in the business world. And not all employers agree that repeat visits to Facebook and Twitter are good for productivity. Jackson Lewis LLP, an employment law firm, conducted a survey of more than 100 employers in the New York metropolitan area to gather information about how social networking has affected relationships between bosses and staff. The study found that 56 percent of employers monitored employee's use of the Internet during office hours. Thirty-eight percent blocked employees from social networking sites, and 6 percent of these employers fired employees for using social networking sites while on the clock [source: HR Tools]. Another survey of 200 human resources managers found that one in three employers think social networking decrease productivity, and 25 percent block all access to social networking sites [source: HR Tools].

In addition to concerning themselves with whether social networking is stealing employees' attention, employers are also checking up on what potential and current employees are saying about them on these Web sites. Twelve percent of employers checked out potential employees' online profile before offering them a job [source: HR Tools]. The same survey found that 16 percent of these employers monitored social networking sites to see what current and former employees were saying about them [source: HR Tools]. Obviously, you should always be careful about what you say about your employer online. For example, 13 members of Virgin Atlantic airlines were fired for sharing not-so-flattering remarks about their employer on Facebook [source: HR Tools]. Additionally, teachers in Charlotte, N.C., were suspended without pay for comments they posted on Facebook about their students and school district [source: Charlotte Observer].

But if you're not posting all-too-candid remarks about your boss on your social networking site, does using one really impede your potential for success at work? Is all this monitoring really necessary -- and, more importantly, is it worth the expense? Companies spend millions of dollars on software designed to block social networking sites. But several studies have shown that personal Web browsing can increase productivity and thus increase profits.