Social networking has emerged as the digital equivalent of lifeblood. People hooked on to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or some other social media site, can’t seem to do without it at any hour of the day. As a natural consequence of this, social networking has made its way into the workplace. Employees, addicted to the use of social media can’t seem to let go of their social network, even when they are at work.
There is a hot debate raging if this is a good thing or bad. Everybody is trying to put their own spin on it. Let’s get one thing straight, whichever way you look at it, most employers are not too happy with this phenomenon and quite a number of them are taking steps to curb what they have termed a ‘menace’. So, now that we know which side they are on, let’s take a look at this ‘event’ from a purely neutral perspective.
Is it good or is it bad? The problem with this question is that there is no grey area. It’s either this or that and nothing in between. But, how do you answer a subjective question, objectively?
Let’s give it a try.
Let’s take the distraction perspective first.
Accessing a social network and using it at the workplace is definitely a distraction.
Let’s qualify this statement with a rider – “It’s a distraction if you are using a social networking site to take time off from your work duties and which is not going to benefit your work in any way or form”.
If you are using a social network in the midst of some important work, the work is likely to be affected, as you aren’t focusing on it. This results in poor quality work and also a loss of productivity. This is also the reason why, employers are against using such sites at the workplace and are banning the use of social media, during work hours.
Now, for its benefits
I know there are some traditionalists, reading this post, widening their eyes in disbelief going ‘What benefits are you talking about, there simply aren’t any.” But there are. By using a social media network during work, employees are actually leaving the field open for collaboration. Stifling the collaborative spirit is never a good idea for any organization.
Say an employee is working on a certain project, and wants to chat up on it with a friend/colleague working on a similar project in another office. Instead of looking at this from a disruptive point of view or the sharing of confidential information, why not give it a positive spin. Think of it is as a sharing of ideas for improving the project. A back and forth of ideas on a social media platform, has led to many a successful project. Companies admit that knowledge sharing is the need of the hour and social networks play the role of ideal facilitators.
A social network also plays an important role in problem solving. Take the case of a developer X, who has hit a road block in a certain aspect of project development. His colleagues are as flummoxed as he is, so what does he do? He puts up a question on a developer’s community and gets a reply – problem solved. The developer’s community is a kind of social network. By dismissing the social network as a distraction, people are doing a great disservice to such problem-solving channels.
The fact is, if you go about trying to prove using social networks at the workplace are a disruptive influence, you can find proof; but you can find an equal amount of proof about the beneficial nature of social networking at the office, if you go looking for it. The question isn’t whether a certain technology is good or bad, it’s all about how you are making use of that technology.