Social media and work performance
What is social media?
Social media refers to an overall internet-based concept of websites and other internet applications which primarily operate through the expression and exchange of thoughts, opinions, and other communication between multiple individuals. Social media encompasses a fairly wide range of websites and other internet applications, including but not limited to the following popular websites: Facebook.com, Tumblr.com, and Instagram.com. These three types of social media are currently some of the most used social media websites in the world—and particularly in the Western world—and together, generate millions upon millions—if not billions—of comments, posts, and other content each day. Many people use social media to keep in contact with friends and family; to meet new people and form relationships; to express themselves; to write about hobbies or other interests; to keep in contact with co-workers or clients and other types of social interaction.
Social media in the workplace
The internet in the workplace began to be a point of contention as soon as the platform was introduced en masse to offices and other workplace buildings around the world. Employers may need the internet in order for their employees to perform their jobs; however, the internet has often proven a point of contention because it is considered to be a major distraction. Employees may focus their time and attention on internet activities during working hours rather than on their actual work. This can lead to poor quality work from employees, unfulfilled quota, unfinished work and other problems which can irritate or even majorly disrupted the workplace. While the internet may provide numerous benefits in the workplace, its major drawback is that it can be a noticeable distraction.
Social media in the workplace, like the internet in general, is also considered to be both a benefit and a distraction. Social media can benefit employers in several ways. It allows employers to keep in contact with their employees even when they are not working—an employer, for example, may be able to message an employee on a social media account about something which needs to be brought to their attention, such as an issue with their work or the need for them to come into work early, and so on. Social media also allows employees to bond in a more casual and friendly way, which can help increase the positive rapport among employees, thus increasing the chances for a productive work environment. Social media can also allow for employees, like their employers, to contact each other outside of work. They might contact each other about work related matters, such as needing assistance in a particular project; but contacting employees through social media is also a way for employees to build friendships and relationship with one another even if they are not physically present together.
However, social media’s effects on the workplace are not all positive. Social media, like the internet, can be a major distraction to people even while they are on the job and working. People may feel compelled to check their social media accounts, usually on smart phones or other mobile web devices; they may also want to post on their accounts or otherwise use social media during the workday rather than focusing entirely on their work. One of the more noticeable differences between internet usage and social media usage in the workplace is that, with the advent of more high-tech smart phones and mobile devices, social media (and of course, the internet) can be accessed in the palm of someone’s hand. An employee, therefore, does not need to sneak away to their laptop or continually check behind them to ensure that no one can see that they are playing a game on their office computer. All they need to is glance down at their lap at their smart phone or tablet and they will be able to access social media.
Another downside to social media in the workplace is the often overlooked impact of social media and gossip, and in particular, negative gossip. Gossip—especially negative gossip—can greatly impact an employee’s overall job satisfaction as well as their work performance. Gossip is natural to any work environment as humans, by nature, are prone to social behaviors such as gossip. However, social media allows for gossip and potentially bullying or other negative behavior to be performed not only inside work but outside of it as well. Without social media, gossip may generally stick to being whispered from cubicle to cubicle in a typical office environment; with it, the gossip may follow an employee to their social media accounts, such as their Facebook page or their personal blog; this gossip, which has now gone from a work related matter to a personal matter, can greatly impact the relationships between employees as well as an employee’s overall performance.
What can employers do about social media problems?
The first step to preventing problems with social media in a workplace environment is monitoring any kind of internet use within the workplace range. This includes office computers, personal or office laptops, personal tablets, personal smart phones and any other personal mobile devices which will be able to access online social media websites. Employers should have a clear policy about using the phone for non-work or non-emergency related matters; generally, it is recommended that employers disallow any use of personal internet time except during personal breaks. Employers should reprimand employees who break this rule—for example, an employee who is caught using their smart phone to access the internet for non-emergency or non-work related reasons may be given a warning or a mark on their employee record.
Another way that employers can help prevent social media problems in the workplace is to create a clear-cut policy on social media; that is, employers should make it clear whether or not it is encouraged or discouraged for employees and/or employers to connect on social media websites. An ounce of prevention by an employer can help prevent a pound of headaches when trying to deal with and unravel months or years of social media related issues.