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Why social media in the workplace is a good idea

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Social media often gets a bad wrap from small to medium business owners. With the common opinion that it negatively affects productivity, many also believe social media discourages interactions between employees and provides an avenue for policies to be breached.

As a result, 43% (down from 53% in 2012) of organisations ban or block social media use in the workplace.

Research shows however, that these beliefs are misconceptions.

Of course, if you are spending 7 hours of your working day on social media, you will experience a drop in productivity, and likely isolation from your workmates – I’m not an advocate for bludging in any shape or form!

However, there are significant positives to allowing social media use in the workplace, as a way of increasing productivity, encouraging collaboration and enhancing the image of the brand.

Social media provides light relief

Social media allows some individuals a much needed brain break – taking a step back from the task at hand to allow it to process what is being done. Research has shown that the best creative breakthroughs happen after you have been working on them and break away, as your brain will still reflect on the task at a subconscious level.

These brain breaks can provide a boost to an individual’s productivity and overall work output.

The need to step away from work is becoming more apparent then ever in today’s world. With a recent survey found that 63% of workers receive emails from their boss on the weekend, and are expected to respond! The old 9-5 is no longer practical, with another survey finding that 80% of workers continued to work at home after leaving the office, adding a month of unpaid overtime annually.

By allowing access to social media in the workplace, you can increase your employees’ mood significantly, which in turn motivates them to work more efficiently for the business.

Social media enables collaboration

When used correctly social media provides an effective avenue for collaboration within the work environment. Savvy investors have already jumped at this concept, with Microsoft purchasing workplace social media platform Yammer for $US1.2 billion. Newcomer #Slack is already valued at over $US1 billion after launching 6 months ago.

The ability to share with workmates instantly away from email is driving more efficient communication channels and encouraging cross team collaboration – something 56% of organisations found difficult in the past.

Social media is becoming a part of our office lives just as email did all those years ago. And with increasing prevalence in the wider community, it is becoming more important then ever to keep up with the technology.

A few figures to consider:

  • 94% of recruiters use social media as part of their recruiting toolbox
  • 80% of companies have a social media policy (up from 60% in 2012)
  • 69% of Gen-Y workers believe they should have access to social media at work

With that in mind, if you want to keep your best and brightest talent, maybe it’s not the best idea to restrict social media.

Encouraging your employees to be active on social media can be positive for the image of the brand, as positive references to the workplace shows a greater level of employee engagement.

So what are the necessary steps to ensure your company social media policy is effective and encourages positive interaction?

  1. Provide concrete guidelines – a social media policy should be an evolving document that develops with the technology. It should clearly state what is acceptable and what is not – both inside and outside the office.
  2. Invest in training – bring in professionals to teach the appropriate skills, enabling your employees and managers to optimise social media, whilst preventing abuse of the power that comes with it.
  3. Use social media for collaboration – file sharing, instant messaging, group discussions. The implementation of a workplace social media platform can aid in collaboration, and will help drive productivity.
  4. Allow for breaks – a brain break might be just what they need for that creative breakthrough, or to refresh the mind for more productive work.

Remember, your employees are representative of your company – when done correctly this can enhance the brand, aid in recruiting, and encourage a positive working environment.

Rather than restricting, think about enabling

So perhaps it’s time to re-think social media in the workplace. Social media is here to stay – the challenge for business is to utilise this opportunity to enhance their image, improve collaboration and increase production.

Dan Fairbairn

Dan is passionate about technology as an enabler, with years of experience training, evaluating and implementing technology into small businesses. Outside of work he loves live music, craft beer and over-analysing sport...!

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