Social Networking and the Effect on Work

Social Networking and the Effect on Work


A recent report by the Ethics Resource Center[1] has found that more than 1 in 10 employees are “Active Social Net­workers” (ASNs) who spend at least 30% of their workday linked up to one or more networks.

This is a horrifying figure!

I recently spent some time costing out the actual productive hours an employee has on any given work day and, if we factor this figure into it well, it could mean that your employees are only truly productive (or at least have the option to be productive) for a maximum of 4 hours per day. Over a working week, that’s just over half of the Fair Work Act mandated 38 hours!

Now, as organisations become more ‘socially’ engaged you could perhaps argue that many more employees are social networking as part of their job but this research indicates that very little of the online time is work-related. In fact, 33% who spend an hour or more of the workday on social networking say that none of the activity is related to work while another 28% say just a small fraction (10% of their online time) has something to do with their job.

In other words, a growing number of work­ers are getting paid for time spent on personal interests.

The report found that most social networkers are engaged in what they call ‘passive’ activity – looking at personal feeds/posts and so on but there are a number who are much more ‘active’ – that is they are writing blogs and posting comments and so on – really engaging with other contacts online.

It’s probably not surprising but, this group also talk much more freely and regularly about their jobs and their company. It makes sense of course if they’re spending 30% or more of their working time social networking, that they’re going to talk about where they are, what they’re doing , how they feel about it and, as we know, one thing leads to another………

The report found that 6 of 10 of these ASNs would comment on their personal sites about their company if it was in the news, 53% say they share information about work projects once a week or more, and more than a third say they often comment, on their personal sites, about managers, co-workers, and even clients.

These are staggering statistics and it means that workplace “secrets” are potentially no lon­ger secret, and management must therefore assume that anything that happens at work; any new policy, product, problem, or even a new client, could become publicly known at almost any time.

Many companies now use social networking to communicate externally about products and services. The report notes that currently, 71% of companies use social networking to present a positive brand image and 65% promote good things the company is doing in the community but it seems they don’t use it to connect with their staff to build trust and to educate them about the negatives of ‘bad press’!

There are 2 major issues here; the first is the sheer weight of usage and the loss of productivity as a result and the other is the loss of confidentiality and the blatant and open sharing of an organisations secrets.

I know I have been on about this all year but, it seems to me that companies are just putting their heads in the sand on these issues.  Many of the HR Managers I talk to will tell me that they have a strict social media policy that ‘bans’ social media during working hours – as if this solves the problem!

In the light of this latest research it is quite obvious to me that employees will continue to check in to social networks during working hours and that the trend will grow and, with the growth in smart phones there’s no real value in restricting internet access at work as employees can access it via their phones at any time.

Social networking is a trend that’s exploding around the world and, like any trend, the more the pushback from authority the more it will flourish – just look at the many current global case studies that illustrate this! So, for now at least, it’s here to stay and organisations need to acknowledge the fact and begin to work with it and use it for the benefits it brings.

Once you make the leap intellectually, it’s not too hard to see what needs to be done. The first thing an organisation needs to do is to train its staff and, as the report suggests, develop broad-based strategies and social networking policies that are grounded in ethics and values, not just compliance, so that employees have the skills and attitude required to more effectively manage their social networks. This means training staff in ethics, organisation trust, loyalty and leadership as well as acting to engage with employees in their social networks where again the message is all about loyalty, trust and ethical behaviour.

As the report notes, the risks and opportunities created by social networking in the workplace are pro­found. Social networking is wiping out old boundaries, exposing the workplace to greater public scrutiny and creating risks that never existed before. But with careful thought and constructive policies that reflect today’s world, companies can mitigate risks and also harness the power of social networking to build stronger cultures and advance their businesses.

If you need help in reshaping your behaviours and attitudes to make social media work for you then contact CAL. We have the expertise and the services you need to engage with your employees, develop social media leaders and engender an ethical culture built around respect and trust.

Helen Sabell

[1] Ethics Resource Center (2013) Natonal Business Ethics Survey f Social Networkers; New Risks and Opportunities at Work. USA.

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