A study has revealed that almost 50% of UK companies prohibit employees from using social media at work.

The research, carried out by Lewis Communications and HCL Technologies, found that from the 2,500 businesses surveyed, 48% ban their workers from posting updates on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.

So, whilst previous research has shown that social networking should be encouraged at work as it boosts moral and improves productivity, it seems that many companies still take a dim view of employees mixing business with pleasure.

And in a week that sees the very act of tweeting brought into the legal limelight with the super-injunction cases, it’s worth considering why businesses are still afraid of social media.

Most companies are comfortable with staff taking ten minutes out for a cup of coffee, a cigarette or a chat in the canteen. So what’s wrong with staff posting the odd status update or firing out the occasional tweet?

There seems to be a notion that employers are worried about sensitive information leaking to the outside world, or employees writing detrimental things about the company. But people can leak information or bad-mouth their employer outside of work hours anyway, so I don’t think that’s the real issue here.

It’s the seamless integration between work and social media that is really concerning companies. It’s all too easy to get distracted when a steady stream of tweets and status updates are arriving in via a minimised browser. Moreover, it’s difficult for employers to know when this is happening, whereas walking off for a coffee is more noticeable and transparent.

And then there’s the issue of smartphones. Even if employers block certain websites at work, most people these days have mobile access to social networks.

So, a blanket ban does seem a little absurd. Surely a ‘during allocated breaks or lunch-time’ approach would suffice, with employees’ contracts clearly stipulating that anything bad written about the company on a social networking website (either during working hours or otherwise) will lead to disciplinary procedures.

People should be trusted to manage their tasks effectively. If employers feel the need to force people off social networking sites completely at work, it’s akin to them saying they don’t trust their staff. Not the best way boost morale in any workforce.