Last week, Cisco launched their annual research project to track how technology is changing the workplace. Arguably, the most notable finding from the survey is data showing just how connected young people are to social media; so much so that they will often forgo a pay increase if it means keeping social media access or their choice of a smartphone device.
Despite these findings however, many of the people I’ve spoken with about the research express concern over whether social media should even be allowed at work. They regard social media access as being a productivity sink, with employees wasting time checking Facebook updates when they should be working.
So, should social media be allowed at work?
I am going to answer with a firm “Yes.” Here’s why.
1. It increases productivity.
An AT&T study in 2008 revealed that social networking access actually increases productivity at work. http://www.corp.att.com/emea/insights/pr/eng/social_111108.html. The report cited the tools abilities to increase individual knowledge and collaboration between teams as key benefits of using social media at work.
In a similar vein, a University of Melbourne study in 2009 found that allowing employees to use social media at work actually increased productivity by 9% over workplaces where access was forbidden. In a video presentation, author of the report Dr Brent Coker, suggests that this was because use of social media provids the brain with a natural break, therefore when work resumes it is done so with renewed vigor.
2. Banning social media does not work.
Just like government prohibition failed to stop alcohol consumption in America, banning social media access at work will not stop employees from accessing it. The lesson from the prohibition era was that people had already cemented their liking for alcohol, so trying to remove access to it simply would not work. It’s fair to say that social media use is well cemented in modern life, and the Cisco study shows just how important it is to employees today. More and more people have smartphones now, so it’s very easy for them to circumvent your firewalls should they choose.
3. You can’t just use it when it suits you.
An increasing number of companies are using social media to recruit people. They advertise on LinkedIn, for instance, or have a Facebook page geared toward potential recruits. These organizations are clearly looking to recruit people with high social media savvy, so why take that away as soon as they agree to enter your workforce?
4. Show me the trust.
Also during the recruitment process, a company presumably hires because the candidates skills, abilities and attitude are suitably impressive and aligned to the organization. To then suggest to that same employee that they cannot be trusted to manage their own social media usage so as not to affect their work performance seems a strange about turn.
I’d love to hear your take on this topic. Does your organization ban social media at work?