Social Networks Blur Boundaries

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The 1860 Republican platform had a plank that promised to protect home manufacturing. Of course, as industrialization proceeded rapidly during and after the Civil War, that was a promise that was impossible to fulfill.

Now, no one is assuming that home-based manufacturing business is going to see a big uptick in the move toward home-based businesses. But there's another lesson here, which is that boundaries between home and work haven't always been as sharp as they have been since 1900.

That was true with home-based manufacturing and it has always been true of farms and retail businesses in which owners lived over their stores. Life was often not as compartmentalized as it is for millions of workers today.

Partner Insights

The reason for bringing this up is that the advent of social networking is again blurring the boundaries between home and office, as email and the Internet have been doing for the last few years and there is every reason to believe this trend will only accelerate.

Just look at posts on Facebook and you'll see that mixture of business and day-to-day life.

How will business respond? It's not going to be possible, or even desirable, for business to draw a sharp boundary and sternly forbid workers not to surf the Web or make personal Facebook posts on company time.

A recent study has even concluded that those who do personal items moderately are actually more productive. I think that in professional jobs this is probably true of any activity that lets workers recharge their brains.

Or course, anyone can get carried away with the Internet. But then in the pre-electronic world, there were people who could kill a lot of time reading newspapers and filling in crossword puzzles.

No, business needs to recognize the need for a balance. If employees are expected to work at home, spend 24 hours on the road and put in extra time for the company, then the employer should be flexible enough to realize that employees have lives outside of work that need to be addressed during working hours and using the company's electronic and computing tools.

This is going to be tricky and there will be plenty of opportunity for abuses on both sides. There need to be policies, otherwise there are always those who will spend the entire day shopping online or viewing what sites cater to their particular obsession and there will be those who chat endlessly on the telephone or with co-workers.

The issue must be addressed, but it must be addressed with the knowledge that what is happening online doesn't change management issues - social networking, IM and other tools are not some new evil with a capital T that rhymes with P and that stands for pool.

They are just new communications media.

And while they will change some of the rules, they won't change all of them.

We know how to deal with these issues, if we think about it.

Grabbing for SALT Dollars

State and local governments that rely on income from sales and use taxes are on the lookout for every dollar that they believe rightly should come to them.

Resellers and accountants can make money helping clients comply, and keeping them out of trouble, as Senior Editor Alexandra DeFelice shows in our lead story, "All Their Nexus Ain't in Texas."

Tax and accounting professionals also can make the payroll process easier. Not everyone wants to have a piece of the payroll pie. But those who do can learn from lessons in the feature, "Online Changes the Payroll Game."

And finally, reviewer Ted Needleman examines the software that lets professionals count the time they spend on such endeavors and billing for services.

Need Insights?

Editor Robert Scott also writes "Consulting Insights," a free, twice-monthly electronic newsletter that addresses issues concerning the consulting and reselling market. It's insight with an attitude. If you want to subscribe, put the following in your browser address line: subscribe.webcpa.com. You can also visit us at www.accountingtechnology.com

(c) 2009 Accounting Technology and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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