Once considered as the new fad, social media has gone to garner massive growth and popularity over the years. Such has been its prevalence that it has managed to change almost every facet of how we communicate, socialize, and engage for both professional and personal activities.
However, the usage of social media platforms in the workplace toes a fine line. While it can have a highly positive impact on the marketing efforts of a company, it can also drain employee productivity.
The report has clearly stated that organizations that allow unrestricted usage of social media are risking somewhere between 15% to a whopping 45% drop in productivity of their employees.
According to the same study, Facebook is the most visited social media platform during work hours. With a whopping 83% of employees spending significant time on the platform, restricting access to the platform may seem as quite the quick fix organizations are looking for.



The Issue at Hand

With a rise in digitization, it has become imperative for companies to maintain an online presence. These social media platforms, hence, enable organizations to build a loyal following online and provide necessary updates quickly, reaching thousands with a single post.

Given this premise, social media usage can be included in the definition of ‘work,’ making it quite necessary for organizations to allow unrestricted access to their employees. However, it has a considerable downside.

While employees are using social media for business/work-related purposes, it is easy to get distracted by notifications and go down the rabbit hole of social media. The report has stated that around 32% of the total time spent on social media is used for indulging in personal work.

This personal work may range from employees trying to strengthen their own private networks or keeping up with the lives of their families and friends. These statistics prove to be a massive loss in terms of both productivity and revenue to the organization.

Apart from this, the indulgence of employees in various social media platforms also leads to the loss of confidential information, misinformation, defamation, and employee solicitation, the report adds.

Even though all the information mentioned above points fingers towards social media as the culprit, organizations can’t merely restrict access to social media as it breeds a whole lot of problems by itself.


Let’s Not Blame Social Media…YET

Organizations that are trying to ban the usage of social media may face massive dents in brand value, in the eyes of its employees.

Further, how must one manage business-related social media endeavors if the access is entirely restricted?
Just because there are drunken driving cases, we don’t necessarily blame the cars, right? Similarly, even though, at first, social media may seem like the culprit, we need to look again in a much deeper manner.

As we all know, just like there are cons for everything, there is always a positive side to it too. Social media is a new-age version of emails; it helps employees collaborate easily.

Along with that, social media also aids in time effectivity, primarily if the operations are carried out of a largely dispersed environment. This fact sure earns some brownie points for unrestricted access to social media in the workplace.
However, as deemed necessary in every scenario with contradictory pros and cons, maintaining a balance is key.

Organizations cannot leverage on high productivity only by refuting access to all social media in office premises. On the other extreme end, allowing unrestricted access to all platforms may prove incredibly jarring upon the organization’s productivity and revenue.

One cannot look past the fact that social media has become a part of life for not just the millennial generation, but for most people. More people wake up to a post by Selena Gomez (the most followed person on Instagram), than they do to another person.


Work Around It, Not Against It

Organizations are expected to embrace this change and modify their working process in a manner that allows them to leverage on all the positives of both extremes.

One way that organizations are trying to improve the relationship between the usage of social media and employee productivity is through the channelization of essential conversations and communications, even if this is limited within the premises.

Just like emails made fax and other offline communications seem outdated, the new generation of employees finds the usage of social media easier for internal as well as external communications.

Hence, the adaptation of organizations to the usage of social media not only enables employees to work liberally, but it also allows maintenance of goodwill among the workforce.

As the famous phrase, ‘change is the only constant,’ organizations that have failed to adapt to this are bound to be considered outdated and orthodox, which could bruise the reputation, and in turn, its overall business operations.

The report also sheds light on how such adaptation, in combination with the availability of high-speed internet with better bandwidth capacity, is shaping innovation in the usage of social media within workplaces.


Bonding, Over Binding, is Key

Studies further showcase that improving employee relationships and connecting to them may result in a minimization of misuse of social media and loss of productive time.

As mentioned before, while social media may seem like the culprit, organizations must tackle more critical issues, whose side-effect may be loss of productivity and overuse of social media.

Furthermore, the study has also emphasized on how motivation can lead to a much higher level of productivity. Motivated employee force can channelize social media capabilities aiding better collaboration and higher innovation.

Other research has suggested that social media, along with improving collaboration, also aids in problem-solving and brainstorming on ideas.

While more than 80% of employees believe that social media has helped them improve their work relationships, approximately 60% have also stressed on how social media has aided in decision-making processes.

This research also suggested that more than 50% of employers have restricted social media access in the workplace. In a support study concerning 277 employees of a healthcare organization, the notion that social media harms employee productivity proved wrong. On the contrary, it suggested that a complete restriction of social media access impacted employee retention to a much greater extent.

The importance of social media is as visible as a flashy neon sign on a dark road. One simply cannot deny it anymore. The most used social media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, have already started working on the launch of their enterprise versions, strengthening this fact’s credibility.


Meeting in the Middle

However, as pointed out above, balance is key. How much is indeed too much? Where must organizations draw a line? These questions can only be answered through designing of social media policies and revising them at regular intervals to fit their organization’s operations entirely.

Rather than imposing a social media policy upon their employees, it is better suggested to involve them in the designing process of such systems. This will not only enable finding middle ground, keeping both parties happy but also aid in minimization loss of productivity and heightened proactivity among the employee force.

Moreover, cocreation will lead to higher acceptance of the policy, with employees behaving more responsibly towards the usage of social media. Such initiatives will also allow employers to build stronger bonds with their workforce, and hence, retain them for more extended periods.


Let Them Make Your Brand

Enabling social media access for your employees in a balanced manner will also allow you to turn your employee force as your brand ambassadors. By inspiring your employees to promote your brand, you can hit more than 1 bird with 1 stone.

Firstly, social media and employee productivity start working together positively, instead of against each other owing to a shift in how the employees engage with these platforms.

Secondly, your brand value will start surging as employees speak more positively.

Thirdly, you instill a sense of responsibility within your employees, enabling better usage of social media.
While there are several downsides to this idea, if executed properly, it can uplift the comprehensive positives to a new level.


Tackling Other Social Media Hazards

All the sweet talk apart, one potential disadvantage of allowing social media usage on-premises is the challenge of employee retention. As we discussed earlier, the complete elimination of social media access could also lead to lower employee retention. How to tackle this issue then?

Studies have shown than more than 76% of employees were engaging more with potential new employers they found on social media. Alternatively, around 60% simply used social media for the purpose of refreshment.

Fret not. The primary key to employee retention is maintaining healthy relationships with your workforce. Many organizations fail to recognize this fact and end up enforcing policies that fuel the downward spiral towards doom.

It is incredibly essential to realize that whether or not such access to social media is provided within premises if employees are not satisfied with the work they do or whomever they work for, they are bound to try and connect with new potential workplaces actively; just outside of office premises.

Hence, it again boils down to the simple fact that employee relationships are vital to maintaining a high retention rate. And the first step towards bettering the same is the inclusion of opinions and suggestions while drafting enforceable policies.

Another solution that can aid in minimizing the risk towards retention is including training programs on how to efficiently use social media and focus on the positives such as collaboration, creation, and innovation.

Achieving these goals shall heighten the satisfaction of employees, enabling higher attachment to the organization. This could potentially neutralize the impending risk of retention social media has created.

Furthermore, recognizing employees’ achievements on these social media platforms will additionally allow better relationships among managers and subordinates.

Providing visibility to employee achievements on company social media also leads to your company’s goodwill to spike, undoubtedly impacting your business. It gives more insight into the organization’s core values, elevating positive outlook.

Another positive side effect of recognizing employees is the ability to leverage your social media platforms as a strong recruitment basis. The advent of social media has enabled potential employees to scrutinize organizations’ profiles and to get a sneak peek into the work culture before considering an application.

Recognizing your employees not only lifts the spirits of your workforce but also attracts motivated and talented people to join it and help you expand quicker. This approach helps you in turning the threat of social media towards retention into an opportunity of not only better retention but also better recruitment.


Key Takeaway

The relationship between social media and employee productivity will undoubtedly be negative if enabled haphazardly. It is also prominent that trying to ‘control’ or ‘limit’ social media usage within the organization, through the imposition of stringent policies also might hurt your organization.

However, this impact of social media can definitely be derived more positively by freeing the hand a little bit and allowing your employees the room of expression, leisure, and responsibility.

When an organization is adapting to changes, they must include employees to have a say in the policies being imposed. Organizations not only understand the comfort zones of their workforce but also are better informed of the work culture present in the organization.

The key takeaway of this study would be that while it may be uncomfortable to adapt to a shift towards social media, there is more than one way to make the tables turn in your favor.

Finding the right balance between usage of these platforms for achieving organizational goals and that for personal benefits is all it truly boils down to.

Employers must engage in real-time efforts to motivate their workforce to use social media responsibly and effectively. Depending upon the path taken by organizations, the relationship established between social media and employee productivity remains rather highly volatile.


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