Is there a timesheet code for ‘looking at Facebook’?
There surely isn’t. Yet if the world’s best-known social network has its way, looking at Facebook while at work may soon become part of the daily habits of employees around the world.
Facebook at Work, the professional version of the platform, is due to launch soon. The company says that people using it will find many of the features of the main version but tuned towards workplace collaboration, newsfeeds and information-sharing, rather than (of course..) the ability to play games at your desk all day.
Those of us who worked in 2007 may remember the workplace buzz around this new social media tool. I for one remember colleagues who probably spent too much time at work on it than for purely professional purposes, and developed a very rapid window-switching technique for those moments they sensed me walking past their desks.
Back then, a media agenda quickly developed around the value of social networks, why people would ever want to use them, the amount of time that could be wasted and whether it was just a fad. In parallel, there was the perhaps inevitable debate about whether firms should allow their staff to use Facebook and other social media at work – with the cries for it to be banned seeming to equal those that it was impossible, impractical or ill-advised to supress.
So nearly a decade on, what can we expect from Facebook at Work as a positive workplace tool? Well of course it’s too early to tell without knowing details of its features, but here are some early thoughts:
- Familiarity: given the ubiquity of Facebook (even my mother-in-law uses it..), the interface and functions are likely to feel like a second home to many people using it. That puts it at a huge advantage compared to other tools or services focused on workplace collaboration
- Opinions: the ability to measure simple, raw ‘likes’ on content has great if one-dimensional potential for assessing employee opinions, and comment streams (again, in a familiar setting) have good engagement potential
- Fusion: the above is likely to drive content and conversation that cuts across work and personal life. That may get noisy, but also be more conducive to idea generation and more useful employee feedback. And At Work profiles will be kept separate from personal ones
- Effectiveness: it’s designed for use within the company only, not with the outside world. That obviously differs from, say, LinkedIn, but if it becomes popular could drive more effective internal collaboration, particularly across multiple sites. Whether it will improve on the practical capabilities of established, typically cloud-based collaboration tools remains to be seen though
- Community: the simple truth that people collaborating online feeling like they belong to a network is likely to improve lines of communication, mutual understanding and desire to engage within internal teams has real potential
Will we see Facebook starts to become a media that drives change and new opportunities in the world of employee engagement? Potentially, yes. It really depends on what features it offers when it’s made available publicly.
You’ll may even read about it on Facebook. The personal version, for now at least.