Social media can be a very tempting way to “kill some time” at work. There is always someone present there, new comments to reply to or something fun to watch. The problem arises in the excessive use of social media at the workplace. It can reduce employee productivity and with that, cause direct damage to the employer. What to do in that case?
According to PRC survey 34% of American workers use social media to take a mental break from work while 27% use it to connect with friends and family while on work. On the other hand, social media does also have a positive impact on employees. According to the same survey, 24% of workers make or support professional connections through social media and 20% get information that helps them solve problems at work.
Image credit: Pew Research center
Which approach to choose?
When it comes to employers, they mostly approach to this issue in one of the following ways: either completely allow the use of social media or completely ban them.
The ideal situation would be that where employees work for results. The employer then does not really care how much time his employees spend on social media if they are doing their job. One of the best examples of such work is the company Netflix, where there’s no specifically determined working time or vacation.
Everyone decides for themselves how long their vacation is going to last as long they fulfill their job duties within the deadline. They’ve introduced this vacation policy in 2004. and it hasn’t hurt them one bit ever since. In fact, the company only grew in the last 14 years and achieved a huge success globally.
As an employer, you can restrict access to certain sites at your workplace, such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. However, in most cases, such bans are easily avoided because employees can use private mobile phones to access social media. A total ban is not the best solution because the use of social media also leads to a productivity increase according to the Brightpod.
So, is social media killing your workplace’s productivity? Well, it depends on many factors. But then how to know which is the best model?
A hybrid, obviously. Allow employees to use social media at certain times of the day, or a total of x times. Employees simply need to have some sort of a break from work and for some that can be through social media.
On the other hand, if there’s total ban on social media at a workplace, employees won’t use them. They’ll ideally be more concentrated on their work tasks during the day. But as we already said, we can’t ignore the fact that social media are still easily available to your employees through their private phones, so those kinds of bans don’t really make any positive impact on your working environment and productivity levels.
Because of the nature of the work we are dealing with – a digital agency, we can’t even consider banning the social media. However, over time we have realized that the constant use of social media for private reasons is very bad for our productivity. Simply put, social media are designed to distract you. In our agency, everyone decides by themselves for how long they’ll use social media for relaxation or entertainment.
From my experience, I can say that I’ve greatly reduced the time I spend on Facebook and Twitter. How? Simply. I exclude all the tabs in the browser and leave only those that are essential to what I am currently working on. For example, right now, I have an open tab with a list of tasks due today and four more tabs that are related to writing this article. In case I need a 5-minute rest, I’ll open Facebook, scroll through the newsfeed, look what’s new, close the tab and go back to work.
For anyone who is accustomed to having constantly open Facebook and/or Twitter this is a very difficult change, which, from personal experience, starts with turning off Facebook Chat. I did it a few years ago and never looked back. This is also how other team members work, and we can say that productivity has drastically increased.