The introduction of Facebook, Twitter and the like has opened up a whole new world of social interaction and distraction. Suddenly, we can be connected to friends, family and colleagues with the click of a button. Instantly, we can discover what our friend had for dinner or whether their day was a good one or a bad one. Social networking has transformed the way we communicate; there is no denying we live in a permanently connected world.
But can social networking be a bit of a double-edged sword?
As much as it can open our world and succeed in connecting us with ease, it can also be a huge distraction. Its addictive qualities can swallow up hours of our valuable time, and waste companies billions of dollars.
The surge in popularity of smart phones that allow us to access the web has meant we carry our entire social networking world in our very pocket, giving us more reason to stay connected. As well as a balanced argument about the prickly subject of social networking in the workplace, we’ve come up with some pointers to help you decipher when to cut back on your social networking usage.
The Pros of Staying Connected
Why does it seem everybody’s got a problem with social networking sites? What’s the harm in staying connected to the people we care about? Social networking sites can not only be fun, it can also be lucrative if it opens up your business to additional revenue streams and clientele. Often, the virtual world is our oyster.
Here are a few advantages of being constantly connected to social networks.
We Need a Break Every Now and Then
Humans weren’t designed to focus on one task consistently, and in order for creativity to flourish, we need breaks in order to see a new project with a fresh approach. A study by The University of Melbourne showed that those who visited websites of interest actually had improved concentration, boosting productivity by 9%.
Improve Income and Loyalty of Customers
A study by Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business regarding Facebook Pages conducted on a retail business in Houston, Texas found that customers spent an additional 45% in the store, increased customer loyalty 41%, and trafficked the store up to 36% more after they decided to use the social networking site. This study shows that using social networking services can have potential benefits for a company.
Save Time Keeping Up with News
Instead of ringing around our friends to double check when an event is still on or whether your friend has indeed split up with their partner, all you need to do is log into Facebook and you’ve saved yourself time and energy, and bagged a bit of gossip, too.
Open Up New Opportunities
Social networking sites can act as your own personal marketing spokesperson. We are told constantly to sell ourselves in job interviews, and our profiles can often do all the hard work for us.
Companies can set up social networking profiles or update their customers via Twitter, all the while building contacts and leads.
Distraction is Commonplace in the Workplace Already
Email, water cooler chats and mobile phones pose particular productivity threats to employees the world over. Relative to other distractions, is the use of social networking services really that bad? Workplace distraction is nothing new and there is a long list of things we, as employees, have to contend with, with some being more harmful to productivity than others.
The Cons of Staying Connected
Social networking sites are known to have addictive traits that can drain valuable time and money and become a persistent distraction, endangering the productivity of workers. So what’s the damage they can wreak?
Security Threats to IT
A study by Sophos published this year reported a 70% rise in the number of organizations experiencing spam and malware attacks via social networks in 2009. The same study expressed that 72% of businesses are of the mindset that employee behavior in social networks could endanger their business security.
Social Networks Can Lead to Financial Losses
A study by Nucleus Research revealed the use of Facebook alone shaves 1.5% of office productivity. IT consultancy company, Morse, evaluated this productivity loss could cost businesses $2.2 billion a year.
Much has been said about the rise of companies checking out prospective employees by viewing their social networking profiles. They say a picture tells a thousand words: One dodgy photo and an opportunity to be hired by that company you have been dying to work for can be lost. We need to be careful about what we post on the web: An employee posted a comment on Facebook saying her job was boring and was shown the door shortly after.
Tips to Boost Productivity
Although social networking sites can indeed open doors, it can be difficult to know when to draw the line, especially if your job involves marketing and networking through Facebook or Twitter.
Here are our top tips to keep you focused and help you take charge of your work-life.
Establish a Daily Routine and Work Schedule
A daily routine is essential to staying pro-active. It helps us organize a healthy lifestyle and can ease distractions in the workplace. Coordinating a work schedule which clearly shows guidelines involving when to start work, when to take breaks and when we should be finishing work helps put boundaries down, putting emphasis and value on our time.
A structure also keeps us focused and less likely to stray off track. Try to stick to a good amount of working hours; 7-9 hours, 5 days a week is usually a good amount of time and creates a healthy structure to our week.
Make To-Do Lists
To-do lists can ensure you stay on top of all of your work commitments. They also help you get to grips with everything you want to achieve in that day. The best way is to put the most important tasks at the top of the list and make sure they are all crossed off at the end of the day. You can make them and stick them to your fridge or plaster a Post-it note on your computer. You can even use a web-based service so that you have ready-access to your to-do list anytime, anywhere; Gmail, for example, has a simple built-in task list feature that integrates with other Google services.
Limit Your Technology Distractions
Workers who constantly check their emails, social networks, and phones are setting themselves up for continual distractions. An email newsletter, a text message from a friend, a link sent by a colleague through a Facebook update — these activities cause distractions, and if you don’t keep them in check, they can take up a significant portion of your workday.
If you allocate timeslots throughout the day for checking emails, social networking feeds, and phone calls, you are less likely to stumble upon distractions.
Take Regular Breaks
Breaks are essential to keeping a positive mood and in turn, can boost our concentration. Taking a break means getting away from your computer, so trade that sneaky look at Facebook with a lap around the office building. Getting outside your home or office for at least half an hour each day will improve your productivity in the long run.
Make the Most of Your Free Time
On the days that you are less busy, take the initiative and stay productive. Rather than slipping into the constant distractions of tweeting and Facebook updating, involve yourself in admin tasks, catch up on reorganization that you let go because of being short on time, and see if work you have finished can be served from being looked over and refined.
And when you do have leisure time off, use your time wisely.
By all means, indulge in social networking endeavors, but put limits on the length of time you use them. Make sure you devote your time to things that make you happy and relaxed including (non-virtual) social interaction, resting and hobbies. This will all prevent you from falling prey to social networking addiction.
- Facebook and other social media cost UK billions. reuters.com.