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James Sheehan

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Blog: would turning off social media improve workplace productivity?

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Productivity is a hot topic for management. Faced with reduced staffing and increased pressures on time, the workplace has become a laboratory on how to get the most from each member of staff over the course of the day. The idea of voluntarily allowing employees to spend hours chatting with their friends is routinely met with horror.


Work life or Social Life?
 
A recent survey by Cisco Systems revealed some astonishing feedback from US job applicants. Two-thirds of the 2800 surveyed admitted to asking about social media policies during interviews, with 56% declining a job offer from a company that bans social media, or taking the decision to circumvent the policy.
 
The consensus is all the more surprising when 41% of those surveyed already in the workforce said they were encouraged to join their present company by their friendly social media policy. An amazing 68% believe that their employers should let them log on from work.
 
Employers are naturally concerned about leaks of information and excessive distractions.  19% of Firms surveyed in connection with these findings said that they had implemented a company-wide ban on social media.
 
Watching the Clock
 
The social media experience can enrich companies seeking to build a loyal community for their products and services, and allowing individual employees to adopt the role of ambassador for the company to an expanding network, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. That situation can only develop if the employee is not distracted by aimless chatter with friends and relatives on unrelated subjects. Keeping employees focused will permit the development of a disciplined work habit and track their own time rather than someone else’s.
 
In the distant past the smoke break was an occasion for socialising and catching up with office gossip, but health and safety laws finally pushed the smokers outside, and this reduced their productivity still further. There is still a need for a modern equivalent to the “smoke break”. Social media occupies that niche but unlike a cigarette it can persist for longer than five minutes. In worst-case scenarios employees can fritter away hours while neglecting tasks that they have actually been paid to do.
 
Benefits of Social Media
 
Most psychologists agree that there is a benefit to allowing workers to step away from their work. A stretch of the legs and a cup of coffee, not to mention resting the eyes, can be genuinely beneficial. The physical benefits are lost when using social media, as it demands constant interaction with a computer, but the momentary distraction can prove helpful for concentration.
 
Searching for information on social networks can be more effective than Googling, since no algorithm can predict the subjective nature of information and followers on Twitter are likely to provide a better solution. Professional social networks such as LinkedIn also help staff to build useful relationships with peers inside and outside their industry.
 
The modern dynamics of companies make it hard to maintain cohesion. Departments may rarely associate with each other, even socially, and the situation is even worse for employees who work from remote locations or home. Social networks can allow employees to keep each other updated without an exchange of e-mails or telephone calls.
 
How can Employers Integrate Social Media?
 
The opinions revealed by Cisco’s survey show that employees are as conscious of the value of social media as employers are nervous about its effects. A reactionary response such as an outright ban on social media may not be appropriate. Employers are entitled to be concerned about the risk to productivity, but there will always be other ways in which employees can waste time, even if cigarette breaks are in decline.
 
A sensible social media policy and clear expectations on each employee will help reduce the possibility of information leaks and excessive time wasting.

2 Responses

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  2. great post

    Many managers worry over productivity because of social media use by employees in a company. Since social media has become such an integral part of people's lives it is difficult for people to ignore it for eight hours a day. Some companies are beginning to take a more relaxed stance on social media use in the office because they can see the benefits of giving employees license to represent the company/brand. 

    Richard Lane

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