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June 18, 2012

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Weibo use at work poses dilemma

MORE than half of nearly 500 employers in a recent survey agreed that workers using their microblog at the office lowers their productivity.

Fifty-four percent of the employers surveyed by the website said frequent pop-up messages distract workers. They also worried that confidential information such as new products might be leaked on microblogs, or that workers might post negative comments about salaries or bosses.

However, more than 73 percent of more than 200 employees disagreed their work was affected by microblog use.

They said using a microblog would help them perform better as they see it as a new way of finding information and a way to vent their feelings.

The question of microblog use at work is not a new one, but is becoming more urgent as the workforce adds more younger workers who see a microblog as an extension of themselves.

An investigation by Shanghai Daily found some companies collect information on employees' microblog accounts and others ban talk about colleagues or company products.

In a survey conducted by Touchmedia, the largest in-taxi interactive media company in China, and Shanghai Daily, one in three passengers said his or her company had regulations on Weibo-like websites.

The problem is a thorny one for companies.

Amy Wei, a 23-year-old administrative assistant at a local foreign investment company, is not unlike may workers of her generation. Every workday, she checks her microblog on her phone on her way to work. At the office, she pulls it up on her office computer and leaves it open the whole workday, checking it from time to time.

"Reading a microblog splits up my time and to some extent, affects my work," Wei admitted. "But I will close the website without hesitation when I become really busy."

Balancing policies

Jennifer Feng, a senior analyst at, a jobs website, said while many managers blame microblogs for employee procrastination, they were in a dilemma about how to balance strict policies with an employee-friendly company culture.

"It is very likely that tough rules and regulations will cause discontent among employees," said Feng. "Employees can still use their own cell phones to read and write on microblogs."

Feng suggested companies find ways to instill self-discipline among employees while having clear policies on leaking of confidential information or negative comments that might draw attention.

"Companies must take the initiative to tell their employees what they can do and what they cannot on microblogs," Feng said. "It is also necessary to set deadlines, sign confidential agreements and punish some employees."

Li Dan, a human resource specialist at a local automotive electronics company, said a microblog is just a channel for information and she didn't think it could hurt a company with devoted employees.

"A lazy employee will not generate much performance even if he or she is sitting in front of the computer and there was no microblog," Li said.


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