The Social Workplace

By | Posted July 24th, 2012

The potential benefits and disadvantages of allowing employees to use social media in the workplace are still being debated today. While most companies know that social media is a fantastic tool for connecting with customers and clients, it’s not as clear whether or not its use internally is helpful or detrimental to productivity and company morale.

As people become more and more interested in using social media more avidly, the question becomes bigger and bigger: Should employees be allowed to post tweets and status updates while they’re on the clock? Here’s a look at both sides of the argument and what the corporate climate is like today.

Trends in Perception

The argument has gone on for a couple of years now, but what’s the take on social media in the workplace in 2012? Interestingly enough, a survey by Deloitte found that 45% of executives think social media is a great tool to use within company culture. However, only 27% of employees have the same sentiment.

Why are more executives so gung-ho on social media use at the office? Of those polled, 46% think it helps to form and maintain colleague relationships. Other reasons cited include helping to build the culture of the company, creating greater connections within the company, and assisting executives in being more transparent.

In terms of employee perspective, a different set of research from Websense Inc. casts a grim look: 25% of employees feel that they have an Internet addiction. On top of that, studies show that 25% to 50% of cyber addiction happens at work. This could indicate employees are getting paid to surf the Internet instead of being productive.

And what are these people doing while they’re taking Internet breaks at work? According to a Harris Interactive survey, most are surfing for personal reasons. Some are reading the news, shopping online, or even gambling.

The Potential Benefits

Despite some negative suggestions about how productivity can suffer, Gartner reported that the number of big companies blocking employees from social media sites is on the decline, according to Computer World. In 2010, 50% of big organizations were still blocking sites, but this is expected to drop to 30% by 2014.

If this decline does occur, how can these companies benefit from the use of social media in the workplace? For one, there are ways social media can be incorporated into corporate functions, according to Investopedia, like employee communication. Workers can also keep up with competitors’ activity and industry insight, which is often tweeted about or posted on other social media networks.

On a less-obvious level, allowing employees to take mini breaks from their work and explore the Internet via social media can help with employee morale, according to Tech Republic. If employees actually enjoy their job, they’ll do the best they can and have a better attitude. Blocking all forms of online communication and social media can hinder this positive feeling.

Instead of using the typical social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, companies can also take advantage of enterprise social networks. According to GigaOM, companies have been using tools like Yammer, Microsoft SharePoint, and Salesforce.com’s Chatter to put social networking into a professional context—allowing people to chat with each other and form online groups at work to help productivity.

Conclusion

The issue of whether social media helps or hinders productivity is likely to continue being debated, but it seems both sides have an argument. The key might be in regulation and making sure social media use at work isn’t so extreme that it’s becoming more of a distraction than a beneficial productivity tool. What do you think about social media in the workplace—does it help or hurt efficiency and overall success?