The case can be made both ways about whether social media use in the office place decreases productivity, or boosts it. One recent survey found that one in 20 employees spend more than an hour each day in the office on social media. Another recent independent survey of 1,268 professionals and students age 18 and older, conducted by MarketTools Inc., found that 35 percent of respondents selected social media as an effective method of communication with colleagues, clients, and vendors. Some other interesting data points from the survey:
- 25 percent of respondents use social media to communicate and build relationships with colleagues. This number went as high as 37% for the 18-24 age group.
- 19 percent of people surveyed agreed that social networking has helped them meet people online who have turned into valuable business relationships offline.
There are downsides to social media applications being used at the office. Some employees have inappropriately shared confidential corporate information on their personal social media sites. Others have used their Facebook and Twitter accounts to inappropriately blast bosses and fellow employees. The question becomes, if they had time to think about their post by waited until they got home, they may have acted differently and more professionally.
There are myths and false beliefs about the use of social media in the workplace. Take this quick quiz to see if you really know about the effects of social media use in the office.
Question #1: As the use of social applications increased, so did the use of other communications tools like instant messaging and webmail. True: There is an overall growth in all types of both personal and professional online communication tools. There is growth with both ‘old and new’ technology applications, which are often used for both personal and professional communications. The workplace continues to be more ‘electronically’ social.
Question #2: Most employees keep Facebook or Twitter open in the background while they’re at work, like email. True: The majority of employees who are accessing Facebook during employment hours, are acting as ‘social voyeurs’, keeping the application running in the background while they continue to do their ‘real’ work. This is a trend that is expected to grow.
Question #3: Employees that use social applications are less productive than employees that do not. False: As employees are more and more engaged with their personal social media applications, they’re taking shorter breaks. And as they are taking applications home with them on their smart phones and electronic devices, they’re actually doing more work ‘off hours’, which increases their productivity. It also improves, and increases the timeliness, of employees’ interactions with each other and with their customers.
One of the best surveys we found was at http://soshable.com/social-media-use-at-work-yields-higher-productivity/, summarized in this chart:
When it comes to making a decision about the use of social media in the office place, consider these questions:
- Is the connection secure and can it compromise company data security?
- Do your employees need to be building relationships with vendors and clients, and if so, does social media promote building those relationships?
- Does it help in improving communications with other employees and clients, or is it an unnecessary distraction?
- Can all employees and departments be treated equally? Does the marketing department need social media access while the telemarking department does not?
- Are you willing to revisit your policy decision after 90 days to see if you’ve made the best decision?
Balanced and considered usage seems to be the best advice. Make sure your employees know that you have a social media policy, understand the terms and rationale, and have a process by which to monitor that the policy is being followed properly.
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