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Telstra to let staff tweet in work time -

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Reporter: Simon Santow

PETER CAVE: It seems these days that if you're not Tweeting or Facebooking then you're well and
truly in the minority and not keeping up with the times.

That's certainly the view of one of Australia's largest employers, Telstra.

The telecommunications giant has just given its workers the official green light to go online and
to take part in social networking, even during company time.

Simon Santow reports on a practice which some employers still brand a 'time-waster'.

SIMON SANTOW: Logging on to social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter can be an
opportunity to share photos, video or music. At the very least, it's a chance to update friends or
followers with just a few words about what you're up to.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: It's a little bit like email except that when you update or do a status update you
update all of your friends at the same time and on Twitter it's like a live stream of information
that's coming through of what everybody's doing.

SIMON SANTOW: Laurel Papworth is a social network strategist and blogger.

LAUREL PAPWORTH: It's not addictive except in the sense that we like to communicate with other
people and that it's the most... it's the easiest and most fun way of communicating with someone.
So, whereas on the phone you're hearing each other's voices but that's all.

I can't show you a video on the phone and I can't send you a link to an interesting article in
order to keep the discussion going; so therefore discussions tend to roll into other things online
because you're able to process things so easily.

SIMON SANTOW: For a company such as Telstra, communicating is core business. Every day the
company's customers spend up big on data, voice and text communication over mobile phones,
landlines and the Internet.

Telstra hit the headlines recently when one of its employees was giving his views about
telecommunications policy but using the name of the Minister responsible, Stephen Conroy. The
employee has since left the company, but the experience highlighted some of the dangers of a fast,
unfettered method of communicating information.

DAVID QUILTY: We actually want to encourage our staff as well as the wider community to be using
social networking sites, they're now a core part of the media environment and we are a media coms
company and hence it makes sense for our staff to be active participants.

SIMON SANTOW: The telco's group managing director of public policy and communications is David
Quilty.

DAVID QUILTY: One of the primary issues is to ensure that people who are using these sites and
inevitably conversations come to issues relating to Telstra - well how are they involved in those
conversations when they're on the sites in a personal capacity?

And I think the important thing there is to make sure that people actually represent the fact that
they do work for Telstra and in terms of any comments they do make, the audience understands the
context that they make them.

I think the other thing obviously that's important is to ensure that when staff are on these sites
and issues do relate to Telstra, then, in terms of their commentaries that they're as accurate as
they can be and that they don't unnecessarily damage the company.

SIMON SANTOW: Telstra says it wants its workers to use Twitter and Facebook and other sites, but to
do so responsibly and not at the cost of doing their work properly.

DAVID QUILTY: Their use of them during work time shouldn't impact on their ability to get their job
done.

SIMON SANTOW: A lot of people would like to know though what is a responsible manner and what is
responsible usage, just in terms of how much time could be devoted to this sort of thing.

DAVID QUILTY: Well I think again it's a case of common sense. If somebody's use of these sites
means that they can't get their job done, it means they're falling behind in their job - well then
obviously that's not a responsible usage.

If it means that there's a small amount of usage during their break times or things like that, well
then I can't see a problem.

SIMON SANTOW: David Gregory is the Manager of Workplace Relations at the Victorian Employers'
Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He says many businesses are still sceptical.

DAVID GREGORY: Obviously in some cases it is a fantastic asset for businesses in terms of the sort
of access information it provides for their employees. But quite clearly in many cases it can be a
complete time waster if people are sitting there with a range of job functions to perform, they're
staring at a screen all day ostensibly working when they could be doing a while range of other
things.

So obviously in those cases it can be a work performance, it can be a productivity issue.

PETER CAVE: Our reporter there Simon Santow.