Checking your Facebook or Twitter feed from the office?

Maybe you’re not allowed to, but experts say it’s increasingly difficult for employers to enforce policies that disconnect workers from social networks.

“There’s a lot of fear. Some companies are staying away from it, some companies are embracing it and there’s a whole lot of rogue stuff going on, said Robert Collins, a consultant and former chief information officer for Cognos, a firm purchased by IBM that produces software that tracks employee performance.

Collins said while some managers worry about productivity loss, there’s no evidence to show social media or Internet use has any impact on productivity overall.

“Before this technology people found other ways to waste time, chatting to co-workers or on the phone,” he said. “There will always be problems with individuals. Those problems have to be addressed individually.”

With mobile devices, it’s no longer possible or even desirable to simply close off access, said Collins. For some workers, particularly those in communications there’s even a potential productivity gain, he said.

Employers need to face up to reality — social media is here to stay, he said.

“If your organization is not there on Facebook, not there putting out tweets, putting out a blog, somebody is going to fill the vacuum and they’re not going to be doing it in the interest of your company,” he said. 

Having a strong social media presence can counteract rogue or critical tweets, he said.

Employers also need to tell employees what is and isn’t acceptable on social media. Some employers see personal social media use by employees as reflecting on them and some even ask employees to use their personal accounts for business purposes.

“There isn’t any law on any of this. It’s all in the realm of corporate policies,” said University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist.

Collins and other experts say firms reap huge payoffs in extra time worked due to employees using mobile devices and laptops at home.

Carleton University professor and expert on organizational health Linda Duxbury said in her research that the intrusion into home life isn’t balanced by employees using social media or running errands online at work.

“It’s all one way. The expectation is that you do work at home,” said Duxbury, adding people always had this pressure, but technology makes it easier.

Collins and Duxbury both said employees need to set rules about when they will and won’t be connected.

“It’s better to have that conversation with your boss when it isn’t a problem,” said Collins.