Facebook has become the most popular online destination in the world - more people read updates on Facebook every day than search on Google. Naturally, employees accessing Facebook during work time is an issue for most businesses. Employers fear losing hours of productivity to mindless banter between employees and their friends, looking at videos and photos of the night before. An obvious answer is to ban employees from reading Facebook at work. But is banning the right answer?

Bans on social networking sites are difficult to enforce and sometimes counterproductive. For a start, many employees will carry smartphones which have access to the internet through a network which is outside the control of their employer. If you block access to Facebook on your employees’ work computer they will simply turn to their mobile phone to read updates.

Banning access to one particular website is unlikely to improve productivity if an employee is unwilling to do their work in the first place. If you ban access to Facebook they will go shopping on eBay or catch up on the latest news on their favourite website. To use an offline example, an employee that spends half the day at the water cooler is clearly not very interested in their work. The solution to this problem is not to ban access to the water cooler; your problem is with that employee.

The best way to deal with the popularity of Facebook is to have your employees agree to visit the site at certain times. This might be when they get into work, at lunchtime and once in the afternoon during a tea break. Giving employees the responsibility to manage their time shows confidence in them to do the right thing. Everyone needs a break during the working day to refresh themselves, whether that’s a short walk or a cup of tea. For the younger generation, catching up with friends on Facebook doesn’t have to come at their employer’s expense.