For years, we’ve been trying to answer the same question: Why are brands banning social media sites at work?
Believe me, it’s still happening.
Maybe not as much as it was 4-5 years ago, but there are still companies out there (I know a number in the Twin Cities area) who block employees from accessing social media sites at work. Heck, I’ve had clients on the marketing side who had to get special exemptions to visit YouTube and Facebook during the day.
You have to be kidding.
For the most part, most companies block social sites for two reasons:
- It’s a drain on employee productivity, or
- It’s a drain on IT resources (i.e., bandwidth)
However, a recent Pew Research Center study confirms what many of us have suspected the last number of years: Not only should companies refrain from blocking social media sites at work, they should be ENCOURAGING employees to use them to enhance performance.
Why? Just take a peek at a few of the nuggets from the survey:
- 20 percent of respondents said they use social media at work to get information that helps them solve a problem
- 17 percent said they use social media to strengthen relationships with colleagues at work
- 17 percent said they use social media to learn about someone they work with
- 12 percent said they use social media to ask work-related questions of people outside of their organization.
- 12 percent said they use social media to ask work-related questions of people inside their organization.
Bottom line: Many people are using social media to enhance performance and solve problems at work.
I know, BIG surprise, right?
In fairness, the top two reasons employees used social media at work were to grab a “mental break” (34 percent) and to connect with family and friends (27 percent).
I’d say that’s a more than fair trade-off.
Sure, those top two reasons are what employers are chiefly concerned with–“wasted productivity”, they’d say.
But, didn’t employees get mental breaks and connect with family and friends on work time long before social media came around?
Look at the numbers again–20 percent of employees are using social media to solve problems at work. And that’s without most companies really encouraging employees to do that. Just think if organizations actually DID encourage social media use. What would the numbers look like THEN?
At the end of the day, this issue is all about culture. Right now, I have a feeling most company cultures still look and feel like this scenario: If you are “caught” using Facebook at work, you’re seen as someone who’s wasting time.
Am I right?
When instead, according to this data, there’s a decent chance you’re using Facebook to connect with an industry peer outside the organization to help you solve a real business problem.
Or, you’re skimming a coworker’s LinkedIn account to get to know them a bit better as you prepare for that project you’re about to work on together.
Or, connecting with a former colleague to identify a new agency partner, which will help contribute to that major creative project coming up.
All legitimate business reasons people use social media every day in a business setting. And, the stats back it up. And, keep in mind, we’re not talking about a study by some social media platform that benefits from working the numbers. We’re talking about a study from Pew!
So, maybe the challenge is this: Communicators–it may be time to circle back with leadership to revisit your social media policy (since you’re the one who probably created it!). If you’re one of the companies that’s still blocking social media sites, consider changing that philosophy. Consider the real business upsides to openings up those channels. Admit that you’re already losing productivity among employees–and that it’s not completely due to social media usage. Think about the possibilities. Don’t let fear run your business. It’s time to really think about the upsides of social from an employee performance point of view instead of always looking at the risks.
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