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The pros and cons of social media in the workplace

Social media brings a wealth of positives to business, but can also become an unwelcome distraction for employees. So what’s a business owner to do? Block all access to social media, or allow unlimited access to the various networks? Here’s a look.

The use of social media is widespread, as it is another step in the development of communication. Although social in its foundation, it has now made its way into the business environment and while some businesses remain uncertain about social media, there really is no turning back.

If used well, social media can bring many positives to businesses; it can enhance communication with your customer base, improve customer loyalty as well as assist with the management of your brand and reputation. However, the very nature of social media creates many problems within the workplace. Its ‘one to many’ and ‘many to many’ structure coupled with its immediacy and viral capacities, can create confusion as it blurs the lines between personal and public.

As a result if this, one of the key questions for business owners is whether they allow access to social network sites in the workplace?

The case for social media in the workplace:

  • It creates trust between the employer and employee.
  • For Gen Y, social media is an essential part of their day. They see access as fundamentally a ‘right’ not a ‘privilege’ – therefore it can be used as an incentive in retaining staff.
  • Consider this: Are employees who surf the net just a new version of employees who used to have a chat by the water cooler?
  • Blocking these sites really doesn’t achieve anything, as more and more employees have smartphones and can gain access in the workplace through these.

The case against social media in the workplace:

  • It is a disruptive element in the workplace – employees are there to work not to connect with friends.
  • Employees can’t multi-task. According to some researchers, multi-tasking is a myth – you can’t surf the net, check emails and do your work at the same time.
  • Access will lead to decreased productivity and is therefore not favourable for employers. The argument can be countered with new research though, which suggests that surfing the net for a few minutes can actually provide a mental break which allows employees to become refreshed.

So what are employers to do since research is conflicting and unclear? Each workplace will need to handle the issue differently depending on their culture, expectations and their employees. It is essential though, that employers have a paradigm shift in their thinking and stop seeing social media as a problem. They need to actually have a conversation about social media in the workplace and see how it can be managed and harnessed to their benefit.

The very worst thing an employer could do is to be passive and do nothing.  Employers should take the opportunity to be both proactive and progressive when it comes to social and join the 21st century.



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Anna Cairo

Anna Cairo

Anna is a social media communications expert. She supports businesses to increase their online presence through social media. Additionally, she also educates businesses around the impacts social media creates in the workplace and how to minimise these risks. She is a writer, researcher and author writing for diverse audiences on a range of topics. Further, she conducts workshops, presentations and is regularly asked to speak to lawyers around social media risk. Anna was recently nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2013. You can join Anna on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Anna-Cairo-Consulting/285887488090944">Facebook</a> or visit <a href="http://www.annacairo.com">www.annacairo.com</a>.

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