Does social media have a place at the office? Some organizations definitely don’t think so. A recent report from Clearswift, an IT security firm, found that 19% of companies are blocking employee access to social media sites at work, up 10% from last year.
But wait… Is Cyberloafing’ Good for Productivity? discusses web surfing at work and its effect on output. The conclusion? It “serves an important restorative function and can actually refresh workers and improve performance”. The article summarizes a recent study by Don. J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G. Kim which found that the amount of Internet browsing a person does during the day, including visiting social media sites, is significantly and positively related to such upbeat mental states as excited, interested, alert, and active, and inversely related to such negative mental states as distressed, fearful, hostile, and jittery.
What’s a company to do, then, about employees who visit Facebook, Twitter, and other sites with their company-issued laptop? Social media’s exponential growth has created unique challenges for employers and employees. Some key points to keep in mind:
Social media use at work is no longer limited to young professionals and members of Gen Y. According to the Pew Internet Project, social media users come from all age groups — the average age of adult social network users has risen from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010, and over half of all adult users are now over the age of 35.
How much is too much when it comes to surfing social media at work? Moderation is key. A recent survey by GSN Digital touched on the matter and found that 80% of respondents who said they visit online gaming sites throughout the day “feel more focused on work as a result of periodic mental breaks associated with game play” – and 59% of them said they visit such sites for less than 30 minutes per day.
Businesses haven’t had to tackle this issue until the last few years, so there aren’t any historical precedents for guiding employees about social media etiquette. Many companies either don’t have a policy about how workers should handle their online interactions while they’re at the office or, if they do have one, it’s so dense and convoluted that it’s impossible to plow through. Companies like Coca-Cola, Kodak, IBM, and Intel that offer a relaxed, common-sense approach appear to be more successful in crafting policies that result in better etiquette and fewer mishaps. When the emphasis is on what’s allowed rather than what’s forbidden, social media mischief decreases dramatically. The best strategy is for corporate culture to embrace social media and encourage responsible employee use.
The infographic below, Social Media in the Workplace, illustrates some ideas to help employees be more responsible. It also give examples of companies with good social media policies, and how to deal with some blunders.