Recently, when Ken Wisnefski, the CEO of WebiMax, an online marketing firm, wrote in to BNET’s Ask the Expert’s column complaining that his employees were wasting too much time on social media, two out of three responding experts took a hard line on the issue. Beth Schroeder, a partner at Silver & Freedman, for instance, suggested that if employees needed to use social media for work, bosses set up dedicated computers or try “looking over their shoulders.”
Christina Stovall, director of HR at Odyssey One Source, had a similar take on the issue, saying, “While you may not be able to restrict these sites completely, you can proactively use available technology — firewalls and web-filtering services — to limit access. In extreme cases, have your managers or the IT department note which employees are abusing their access to personal sites and handle those situations with disciplinary action.”
So are these HR experts right to take such a strict stance on social media use at work? Not according to a recent Business Insider post. The piece is based on a simple and probably fair assessment: “Your employees are Facebooking and Tweeting at work. Face it. We’ve all learned to accept it as a fact of life.” Rather than dissipate your resources and antagonize your employees with an endless battle to snuff out social media use at the office, BI suggests you put employees’ love of Facebook, Twitter and the like to good use.
That employee who spends all day on Facebook? Put him to work setting up your LinkedIn account. That lady in sales that loves to Tweet may be able to teach you a few things. Set up a company Twitter account and create a presence for your company there.
And even if your company already has a flourishing social media presence and doesn’t need more contributors, fighting against social media use may still be misguided, according to the post:
Networking also can help with research. That project you assigned to the new intern? She had no idea where to find the information she needed, so she pulled up her Facebook account and posted the question to her 5,000 friends and family members. Within ten minutes she found out her friend from high school works with someone who would love to answer any questions she has. The end result of that project is far above anything you could have come up with on your own. All because of social networking.
Still sure your employees’ social media use isn’t directly benefiting their work? Who cares, says BI. It may be indirectly helping them keep their sanity.
For the most part, employees use social networking as stress relief. While some employees can get carried away, many of today’s workers are used to multitasking. At home they watch TV, surf the Internet, and talk on the phone, all at the same time. We, as a society, have grown restless when single-minded focus is required and cutting back and forth to social media throughout the day allows us the diversion we need to recharge.
Recent research supports this conclusion, finding that social media can actually improve productivity by helping the brain recharge, or can be harnessed with tools like Yammer to improve inter-office communication.
But perhaps there’s an even simpler reason to stop trying to micromanage social media use at your office — you’re pissing off your employees by treating them like children. Sure, if an individual employee isn’t meeting performance targets or completing tasks because they’re glued to Facebook, fire them. But if a worker is meeting the goals you set for them, is the anger and oppositional relationship your engendering with your social media paranoia really likely to improve their performance or increase the likelihood of them sticking around for awhile? Maybe if you can’t trust your employees to do their work without minute-by-minute scrutiny, you haven’t hired the right employees.
What do you think — does fighting social media use at work do more harm than good?