Should you be accessing Facebook or Twitter while on the job? Research suggests a good number of workplaces are actually banning employees from visiting social networking sites for any reason while on the job.
In a survey developed by IT recruitment firm Robert Half Technology, more than half (54 percent) of chief information officers interviewed said visiting social networking sites while at work is "completely prohibited" by company policy.
Of the remaining respondents,
- 19 percent allow social networking activities for business purposes only;
- 16 percent said employees are allowed limited personal use of such sites;
- 10 percent said employees can access social networks for any type of personal use;
- 1 percent either didn't know or provided no answer.
Why the Ban on Social Networks?
One of the biggest concerns is reduced employee productivity. Social media can be addictive, and people have been known to spend hours looking for long-lost friends, updating their status and playing online games on such sites, while the work day slips away.
IT workers are not immune to the distraction problem, since their jobs often require them to switch from one task to another. A study by the School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, which tracked the work patterns of 36 tech workers, found that people in IT positions spend an average of three minutes on a task before they are either distracted by someone else, or drop their task to attend to something else. Work on specific projects lasts a little longer: just over 10 minutes.
If you're already being constantly interrupted by the need to attend to multiple tasks, adding social media into the mix can certainly increase the number of disruptions in one day.
Several distractions in a day can translated into lost dollars. Another report by business research company Basex found that unnecessary interruptions in the workplace cost U.S. businesses $588 billion a year.
If you're someone who works at a desk, reading documents and handling large amounts of information, you're likely to waste more than two hours a day because of non-work-related disruptions, the study claimed.
When Using Social Media at Work is OK
Here are some guidelines to follow if your company allows employees to use Facebook and related sites while at work:
- Be familiar with your company's policy: If your company has issued an official written social media policy, make sure you read it, understand it and stick to it. If in doubt, discuss with your manager or someone in HR.
- Be careful about what you post and with whom you share: If you don't want certain information or photos to be viewed by everyone, make sure you know how to use the social networking site's privacy settings to limit your audience. Also, don't disclose proprietary or confidential company information, even if you think it's secure or you're expressing your personal viewpoint about something.
- Be professional: It's best to limit your use of social networking sites to connect with others in your field, keep up with industry news or build your company's brand. Catch up with friends and family outside of work.
- Remember your audience: Even if you're using social media on your own time, be careful what you post, because your manager, reports or peers may be reading it. Avoid criticizing anything or anyone that is connected to your workplace; it could cost you your job.
- Exercise moderation: Set limits for yourself. For example, you can allow yourself a maximum of five or 10 minutes to update your status, check a profile or send someone a message. But don't take advantage of a liberal social networking company policy by spending hours on those sites.
- Use social media to advance your career: Use Twitter or a blog to communicate things related to your company or industry. This can help build your reputation as an expert in your field. Remember to be transparent and disclose who you work for.