Social Media in the Workplace: Does it Impact Productivity?
Once considered simply a fad, the prevalence and continued growth of social media has changed virtually every facet of how we keep in touch, socialize and engage for both personal and professional activities. Social networks have even had a measurable impact on workplace activities as human resource policies are adjusted to keep pace with the new social norms.
While there are a number of positive aspects to social media, it is important to take a look at what detriment (if any) it has presented in the productivity of employees and some alternatives to adopt a successful social media policy in your workplace.
Intranet and the Connected Employee
If your staff is interested in online engagement and socialization, why not capitalize on it administratively by creating an intranet? That is exactly what many large organizations are doing in the establishment of employee-only intranets that both encourage social communication with colleagues while streamlining the way we connect to fellow employees.
An intranet is a private and secure network that is organizational wide and it can include a global chat or relay message service for all employees (announcements or broadcast memorandum) or be subdivided into smaller and more private working groups. Giving departmental teams a virtual meeting area to collaborate is nothing new to leaders such as IBM and Microsoft who have been utilizing intranets since the early 1990s to align onsite staff with remote workers and contractors.
While increasing productivity, intuitive UX designed intranets have another beneficial side-effect for the organization. Some workplaces have found that an active intranet reduces the amount of time spent during work hours on external social networks. They are also an effective way to reduce intra-office emails, which are frequently misused as an alternative to instant messaging.
Are Social Media Mavens More Productive?
A recent study conducted by Evolv proposed that employees who are social media ‘power-users’ were not only more productive than the average employee but they were more satisfied with their work environment, often remaining in key positions longer. The study debunks a long held myth that the distraction of social media usage among employees is a detriment to overall productivity.
The study evaluated 100,000 employee responses with 33,000 respondents active on 1-4 social networks. Of the full group, 1,300 participants were active daily on more than five social networks. This group demonstrated 1.6% higher sales conversions and 2.8% lower average call times. Mike Housman of Evolv pointed to an increased ability to be social and multitask and enhanced comfort with software as being indicants to the success of the top performers.
In other words the activity on social media may over time, enhance certain skills that contribute to better performance in the workplace. However Housman furthered that excessive social media usage had a detrimental effect on productivity, and encouraged moderation for best results.
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For the full article and interesting reflections on social media in the workplace, read “Social Media: Not the Productivity Killer You Thought?” by Francesca Fenzi.
When designing your organization social media policy, consider the advantages and communicate moderation and self-regulation when it comes to engagement on social networks during office hours. Given the prevalence of Smartphone use, a ban on social media in the workplace is likely to be less effective than a guideline on appropriate and moderate use.