Multilingual Business Communication

March 22, 2009

Belgian employers forbid Facebook

Filed under: Aagje Verbogen, employee communication — meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie @ 7:33 pm


Four in ten Belgian employers forbid their employees to access the social network site Facebook while they are on the job. This result was brought to light by a survey by the trade journal Smart Business Strategies, for which 250 employees and about twenty organisations were questioned. This banning of Facebook is part of the companies’ restricted Internet access policy: seven in ten Belgian employers set clear rules about the use of Internet or block certain sites. Only large companies used to bother about their staff’s digital whereabouts, but smaller companies are also starting to restrict Internet access. This growth is due to the economic crisis, which makes employers sensitive about their employees’ productivity: they are afraid that their staff wastes their time. Victims of this trend are Facebook and online gaming sites, but also erotic, music, torrent, gambling, and chatsites.

This banning of Facebook is not only a Belgian problem, nor is it a recent one. In 2007, the Trades Union Congress advised employers to let their staff continue using sites such as Facebook. According to the TUC, employers can forbid access to sites like this, but they warned them not to overreact and impose a total ban. “It is unreasonable for employers to try to stop staff from having a life outside work, just because they cannot get their heads around the technology,” TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said at the time. “Better to invest a little time in working out sensible conduct guidelines so that there do not need to be any nasty surprises for staff or employers.”

The TUC general secretary’s advice is reasonable enough, but in these times of economic turmoil our Belgian companies seem to be worrying more about money than about their employees’ work-life balance. And in this context, maybe that is reasonable too…

Aagje Verbogen



  1. It goes without saying that employees should not be surfing through gaming sites the entire working day. However, a profile on a social network site like Facebook, contains personal information such as hobbies. In this way, colleagues can get to know each other’s personal life and maybe even discover common interests. To my mind, this could certainly improve the atmosphere at work and collegiality as well. So maybe it’s not that bad after all, if employees occasionally check their Facebook site.

    (Febe Corthals)

    Comment by meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie — April 5, 2009 @ 12:32 pm

  2. Moreover, I’ve just read an article that says that employees who regularly sneak a peek at Facebook during office hours could actually be boosting their productivity. According to Dr. Brent Coker, from the Management and Marketing Department of Melbourne University, employees who do surf the internet for fun at work – within of course a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office – are more productive by about 9% than those who don’t. So perhaps companies should reconsider whether it is actually worth spending millions on software to block these sites, etc.

    (Kirsten De Weerdt)


    Comment by meertaligebedrijfscommunicatie — April 5, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

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