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In 2012 Americans spent approximately 20% of their time on social media while in the workplace.  The time that employees spend on social media while at work can increase productivity.  There are different ways that social media sites can be utilized in the workplace.  Taking breaks to access social media accounts have been shown to increase productivity instead of spending extensive amounts of time on work related tasks.  Sites like Doximity, which is a social networking tool for physicians allows employers to connect with other employers outside of work.  With instant access to the internet through smartphones social media is right at employee’s fingertips.  Instead of trying to block and prohibit the use of social media sites at work, employers should rather utilize them in ways that can increase productivity and improve employee performance.

 

Figure 1

Banning Social Media

Users of the sites check their accounts to see if friends have tweeted them or commented on their page as a way of staying connected.  Instant availability tempts users to constantly check their social media profiles leading to concerns in the workplace. Some employers have taken charge and banned employees from using social media, where others are starting to reconsider the possibilities of social media.  Hyman found that 55% of employers prohibited use of social media from employees during work hours on company-issued computers.  By banning the sites employees are forced to focus specifically on work related tasks without a quick break time to check their social media accounts. Over half of employers have blocked social media usage from employees without having a full understanding of how the sites can actually benefit their business. Approximately 43% of employers banned the use of social media sites on company issued cell devices and 32% of employers prohibited social media use on personal cell devices.  When looking at specific social media sites 26% of employers have banned using Facebook in the workplace and 17% of employers have blocked the use of Twitter (Hyman, 2012).  Employer’s reasons for blocking the sites may not substantially stand up against the reality of what the usage of the sites can do for a business.

Why Employers Think Banning Social Media is the Answer

The internet has become an available resource for people to access all around the world and on many different devices such as their smart phones and laptops.  Instant access that employees have to social media sites frightens employers into thinking that if they allow employees to check the sites at work then they will not be as productive.  Mcgregory-Dixon discusses reasons why employers block social media including 67 percent of employers blocked the sites in hopes to prevent decreased productivity.  Employers are making sporadic decisions and have blocked social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in hopes that employees will focus on work related tasks during work hours. In 2012 Americans spent a total of 74.0 billion minutes or 20 percent of their time on social media sites (Federman). Although this is a great deal of time, this statistic does not account for where the use of social media was taking place and whether or not the time spent on the sites increased productivity and improved the employees work performance.   Angus Loten explains how Adam Schran a co-founder of a Philadelphia-based software firm and his dilemma with the use of Facebook in the workplace (2008). Once Facebook became popular Schran found that he was worrying whether or not productivity would decrease. Schran, like many employers are nervous that employees are going to spend their entire work day socializing on the social media sites. Employers like Schran should be more aware of possibilities that social media sites have to offer such as increased productivity and the way employees perform work related tasks.

A New Way of Looking at Social Media Platforms

Employers must start to look at social media sites as a success tool for their business. The uses of social media platforms have the potential to increase productivity and the way employees perform their daily tasks at work. Businesses need to come to a realization that social media sites are ubiquitous. The article, “Why 54% of companies are still blocking social media–and why they should stop” by Arik Hanson questions if employers have ever heard of cell phones? Mobile technologies complicate the issue. Smart phones provide instant access with 3G connection for users to use virtually anywhere, anytime.

Workplace productivity is the key to success in businesses and ensures that work related tasks are being completed on time. It is important to remember that in the social media age networking sites can be a powerful tool that can increase performance from employees. In the article, Workplace Impact of Social Networking, author James Bennet argues that, “Being able to network and maintain contacts through life and work is one of the most crucial aspects of success but is often one of the most overlooked areas.” Bennet’s argument holds truth to the fact that social media is around employees no matter what.  When looking at what social media is doing to the productivity level in the workplace, it has potential to increase productivity with the use of the sites.

Social media platforms have potential to help employers and their businesses.  Work related social media sites can be taken into consideration by employers that allow employees to work even off the clock. Strategies geared towards enhancing workplace productivity must note that communication is an important element in the equation in increasing productivity (Paul).  In order for a workplace to succeed and see productivity levels rise they must take into consideration that social media sites are all about communicating with others.  Hudson explains how many sports teams have not filled a stadium without staying connected to fans.  Merchandise and sale tickets wouldn’t continue to rise if players, employees and club owners were not staying connected to fans (Hudson, 2012).  Maintaining the effort to stay connected creates relevance, value and continues conversations with audiences.  If one of the driving factors of successful productivity is communicating, then shouldn’t social media sites like Facebook and Twitter be utilized in the workplace? Employees then have the opportunity to take breaks on social media sites which can increase productivity and at the same time be reaching out to clients.  If businesses stay connected with clients like sports teams do with fans through social media, there is great potential to increase awareness and show loyalty to clients.

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Figure 2: Quote

The Need for Breaks to Increase Productivity

Increasing productivity in the workplace is the main goal that employers have for their businesses. Social media sites help workers connect, collaborate, and therefore increase productivity.  Recent studies show that short breaks in the workplace to surf social media sites are in fact beneficial.  Employers are afraid to allow employees to participate on social media sites throughout the work day, but the sites can increase productivity. The National Post explains in their article “Goofing off is Good for Productivity,” that a recent research group in the UK found that taking shorter work breaks might lead to increased productivity.  The study was conducted by MindLab International and involved European Women who were asked to complete computer-based intelligence tests which were designed to induce stress.  The women were then offered a ten minute break to freely surf the internet before they had to return to another test, while productivity and stress levels were monitored throughout the study.  The study found that stress levels were reduced and productivity increased when the women were allowed a break to surf the internet.  Breaks in the workplace are no longer what they used to be. Instead of going for a quick walk around the block employees want to be able to check their social media sites during their free time. As the study shows, a simple ten minute break from doing work allowed the women to work more efficiently, eliminating stress and increasing productivity at the same time. Skipping breaks and trying to remain productive just is not the case. Skipping breaks at work can lead to increased stress and exhaustion. If employers are trying to see increased productivity in their company, then allowing employees breaks and time to surf social media sites needs to be considered. Social media platforms are no longer the enemy for productivity loss but rather a tool for employees to work more efficiently.

 

Work Related Social Media Sites: Why they are Effective

There are multiple ways that social media can be utilized in the workplace. The social media sites come at no cost for employers and it would be useful for employers to experiment before they discredit them.  Dr. Howard Luks, Chief of sports medicine and knee replacements at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y. has successfully used social media in the workplace (Acohido).  Luks is one of the few employers that decided to test whether or not social media could benefit his practice that operates as a small business. He used Doximity, a social networking site for physicians.  Luks utilized the site by communicating with different colleagues and posting information about different technologies. Using the social media sites to communicate with different employees allows the workers to take breaks, and discuss work related topics. Doximity is similar to Facebook and Twitter in that the sites can be utilized to discuss a common topic through the platforms. For Luks’ practice specifically, Doximity has allowed him and his employers to talk with other practitioners regarding a patient right after a checkup.

Doximity

Figure 3: Doximity Profile Page & Mobile App

 

Social networking sites allow employers to more effectively communicate with employees.  Collaborating online can cut down on time and make it easier to create schedules because the sites are always available.  Luks explains how collaborating among colleagues and experts how having the ability to use such sites provide instantaneous access to so many other employers anywhere around the world.  Employers can share knowledge through the social media sites quicker and easier with numerous individuals, which may not have been as easily shared through other platforms.   Before social platforms were available employers had to use other mediums to communicate but social media sites are practically instant.  Social media can be used to promote a company’s brand, increase awareness, greatly serve and promote a company (Bradley 2).  If businesses allow employees access to social media sites, they automatically have the opportunity to connect with customers and increase awareness of their company. Social media sites are not the enemies but rather a tool that should be utilized in the workplace.

Figure 4: Video of Doximity Explanation and How to Use

If an employer allows their employees to utilize social networking sites, then they have the ability to use the sites outside of work. In addition to using the social networking sites in regards to work, it means that employees are able to carry on tasks outside the company as well. If a company like Luks’ chose to take advantage of a site such as Doximity, it would mean that employees have access to the site anywhere, anytime. Employees have the opportunity to continue interacting with other employees focusing on work and increasing productivity rates outside the business. When employers generally think of social media sites they think of Facebook and Twitter. Those sites can be utilized in the workplace but for Luks’ small practice; he utilized Doximity and was able to improve productivity in his business. If employers like Luks begin to take advantage of social networking sites rather than restricting the use of them, they have the opportunity to see productivity rates rise.

Social media platforms have become much more than means of sharing information but ways to collaborate and learn from others. In order for employers to see a change in productivity and the way that their employees present work related tasks, they must accept social media sites as a tool for success rather than failure.  Social media can “enable the organization’s members to interact with each other unconventionally” (Akdere, Thomas 4). If employers provide their workers the opportunity to take advantage of social media sites, it can eliminate the restrictions that are traditionally affecting employee’s productiveness such as space and time. Social media sites in the workplace can allow employees to collaborate and share knowledge with one another but in a digital setting. Employees can communication easily and frequently share knowledge which then will lead to collective performance (Learning 4). Online collaboration can eliminate the time that would be wasted in between face to face collaboration.

Figure 5:  Myth Busting: Social Media Hurts Productivity in the Workplace  Employees were asked to rate how they think social tools have contributed to their organizations success.

Collaborative learning has changed throughout the years as social media platforms have grown in popularity.  In a traditional classroom, teachers would ask students to break into groups and have discussions pertaining to a specific topic (Powell). When looking at collaborative learning in a corporate scale, this is not possible to ask employees to have multiple discussions throughout a work day. This is where social platforms are extremely useful for employees to communicate and collaborate throughout the day. With social media sites employees have the opportunity to utilize the availability that the sites provide virtually anywhere.

Social Media Sites can create Leaders: Leaders lead to Increased Productivity

The opportunities that are available when taking advantage of technology are endless. One of those possibilities is the chance to create leaders when utilizing technology and social media sites. Leadership was traditionally conceptualized as an individual level skill (Capacity 345). Now as technology is emerging and social media sites are growing, the two allow ways of communication that were not traditionally available. If an organization is willing to allow social media sites in the workplace, the sites can be “leveraged to help develop the creative and innovative leadership capacity” (Capacity 345). Social media sites allow employees to not only communicate with other employees but work for themselves and expand their knowledge by becoming more informed.

There are many different social media sites and in the article “Leveraging Technology to Develop Creative Leadership Capacity,” uses the example of Wikipedia versus Facebook. Wikipedia is a collaborative online encyclopedia which generally only allows one way communication. On the contrary in terms of Facebook there are multiple forms of communication when attempting to share information between organizations. The difference between these media platforms is that the social media sites allow the ability to increase the “creative and innovative capacity of an organization is both a creative and innovative process in itself” (Antes, Schuelke 345). Social media sites such as Facebook allow different members of an organization to share information that may not have been noticed without use of the site. Since social media is a path for communication, employees have the opportunity to address problems via the social networking sites and discover a way to solve the problems. Employees have the ability to grow as individuals in the workplace and become the beginning stages of leaders. Social media has the potential to develop “creative leadership capacity of an organization” (Antes, Schuelke 346). With growing leaders in an organization leads to an increase in workplace productivity which may not have been possible without the social media sites. The fact that social media has the ability to create leaders is a reason in itself to begin to incorporate social media into the workplace. Employers may fear the thought of employees wasting time on the sites but in reality there is an opportunity to help create multiple leaders throughout an organization.

Conclusion

Employers have tried to ban and block social media sites in the workplace in hopes that employees will focus specifically on work related tasks.  Social media is not what will hurt a company, but rather extensive work hours with little breaks and no access to social media sites will.  Allowing employees to check social media sites can improve productivity rates, performance and create leaders at work.  Social media is not restricted to simply Facebook and Twitter, but sites such as Doximity can be used in the workplace to improve communication and collaboration between employers and employees.  The power social media has to connect individuals and provide instantaneous access to individuals around the world is why employees cannot afford blocking the sites.  Employers can no longer ignore the power that access to social media sites have in order to increase productivity, and performance in employees.

Works Cited

Acohido, Byron. “Social-media Tools Can Boost Productivity.” USATODAY.COM. USA Today, 13 Aug. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Antes, Alison L., and Matthew J. Schuelke. “Leveraging Technology to Develop Creative Leadership Capacity.” Advances in Developing Human Resources (2011): 318-65. Sign In. SAGE Publications, 17 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Bennet, James. “Workplace Impact of Social Networking.” Emerald Journal 28 (2009): 138-48. Aug. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

Bradley, Phil. “Be Where the Conversations Are: The Critical Importance of Social Media.” Business Information Review (2011): 247-52. SAGE Publications, 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Dixon, Amanda M. Employers Block Social Media to Improve Security, Productivity. BenefitsPro., 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Federman, Eliyahu. “Social Media Today.” RSS. Internal Social Networks Increase Workplace Productivity, 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

“Goofing off Is Good for Productivity.” Postmedia Network Inc., 21 Apr. 2008. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Hanson, Arik. “Why 54% of Comapanies Are Still Blocking Social Media–and Why They Should Stop |.” Communications Conversations. Communications Conversations, 25 July 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

Hudson, Kevin. “Social Networking Isn’t About Connecting…It’s About Staying Connected.” RSS. Social Media Today LLC, 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

Hyman, John. “Workforce.” Some Workplace Social Media Stats to Start Your Week. Mediatech Publishing Inc., 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

Loten, Angus. “Pulling the Plug on Facebook.” Inc.com. Mansueto Ventures LLC., 11 Mar. 2008. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

Thomas, Kristopher J., and Mesut Akdere. “Social Media as Collaborative Media in Workplace Learning.” Human Resources Development Review (2013): 1-16. SAGE Publications, 13 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

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