Tuesday September 11, 2012
Should employees be allowed to surf facebook and other social network at the office?
Talking HR with Roshan Thiran
A FEW months ago, I was asked what HR's perspective should be on the usage of Facebook and social networks at the office. Some companies have built firewalls to bar their employees from Facebook and Twitter usage while others don't but get frustrated watching employees on various social networks throughout the day.
Many fear productivity in the workplace has been compromised with the advent of these social networks. Yet another camp claims that social networks increase productivity. So, the bigger question is: Do social networks increase or decrease productivity on the job?
Recent studies believe social network sap productivity. A study by Nucleus Research showed that Facebook shaves 1.5% off total office productivity and a British study estimates on-the-job social networking costs British companies US$2.2bil a year.
More important is the security risks that social networks create. A Sophos study titled “Security Threat Report 2010” reports a 70% rise in spam and malware attacks for businesses via social networks. Interestingly, the report states that employee behaviour in social networks pose a great danger to business security.
The report goes on to claim that 60% of respondents believe that Facebook presents the biggest security risk of the social networking sites, significantly ahead of MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.
A study conducted by market research firm uSamp concludes that “nearly 60% of work interruptions now involve either using tools like e-mail, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions.”
Oh no! I can't believe it ... opps ... sorry, got distracted. Was just reading a tweet from a friend. Back to my point we are constantly distracted by these social networks.
Great way to connect
But on the flipside, more and more companies are embracing Facebook and other social networks because the sites present a great way to connect with customers and spread the latest company news or product offerings to the public. But how do we address this productivity issue?
About two years ago, my blackberry went kaput and I decided I had enough of smartphones. So I bought a “dumb-phone” (one with no Internet access). All it had was voice capabilities. The next few months, as I was freed from constantly checking e-mails, I started to notice people. Everywhere I went, people using mobiles on Facebook or tweeting about the chocolate ice-cream they were eating. Anything they believed had “tweet-worthiness” (i.e. “I am stuck in traffic jam” or “My nose looks big today”) was tweeted upon.
These instant updates do help many gain new insights but requires huge time investments on our part. So, instead of reading books and developing oneself, we are now reading every single Tweet or status updates.
Many claim that being on Facebook or Twitter is great for networking and building relationships. The reality is that real networking and relationships are built when you spend time with people in face-to-face conversations. A top HR leader once said, “Networking does not mean using Facebook or LinkedIn. It means going to events, getting your face in front of people and setting up informational interviews.”
A few months ago, one of my employees, disgusted with the amount of time being wasted on Facebook, decided to begin a “frape” movement. What is “frape”? This was a new term he coined which combines the English term “rape” with “Facebook”. When someone is being unproductive on Facebook during office hours, this employee will go on their Facebook page “illegally” and update the status with comments like “I am wasting time in the office updating my Facebook status” etc.
We neither endorsed this movement nor approved it, but it somehow took momentum as employees themselves realised the importance of putting productivity over frivolous updates.
Facebook can end up a disease for some. Just as with anything, spending too much time on social networks is addictive. Many spend more time posting updates about their lives than actually living their lives. I have seen people in the same room tweet to each other.
How do you overcome this disease? I personally think Facebook and the various social networks have been great for everyone. I have reconnected to countless friend and my parents also use it to keep in touch with old acquaintances all over the world.
In fact, I will say on record that distractions are important in life. Life would be too boring if it is all about work. Furthermore, micro-blogging is an extremely creative process and helps us hone our creativity and writing skills.
We also do need periodic breaks as we lose productivity if we just focus on work tasks all day. So, surfing the web and reading or micro-blogging has its merits.
However, just as too much of something creates addictive behaviour, it is important for each of us to understand how to manage ourselves and personal productivity. If we find ourselves spending more than an hour a day on social media sites, we are just “tweeting” our lives away.
Don't let that happen to you. There is so much that this life offers. There are so many precious moments at work where real physical interactions far supersede social networks in creating bonding opportunities that ensure the workplace is energised and fun.
So, here are my top 10 ways to be more productive and Facebook-free:
10. Write down exactly how much time you spend on social networking sites you will be extremely shocked to see how much of your day is washed away on these sites. Start monitoring and cut it down.
9. Turn off Facebook and Twitter e-mail notifications. Constant interruptions mean you will never be able to really focus on what's before you.
8. Turn off the Internet. Unplug the Internet when you work. This may sound drastic but when on, there is a tendency to “switch” over to Facebook mode.
7. Reward yourself with Internet time after completing a task. Facebook and social networks can become great rewards after completing a task. Imagine being unplugged from the Internet and when you finished your work, your reward is being able to plug back on. Facebook will be all the more sweeter!
6. Schedule Facebook time Set aside 15 minutes every few hours or schedule an hour a day to catch up on Facebook and your other online networks. By scheduling it in your calendar, you can ensure you don't run wild and spend eight hours a day on Facebook.
5. Keep reminding yourself Tweets and Facebook notifications are NOT e-mail You don't have to read every single tweet received. You will not die if you miss a Tweet or two or three.
4. Talk to your colleagues at work If you need a distraction, go talk to your friends at work. Better still, go have a conversation with your boss. Might help you get a promotion!
3. Update your Facebook status at 9am every morning to “Am extremely busy being productive at work. Will be back to Facebook at 5pm”. Once you do this, DO NOT look out for notifications of comments on your status update.
2. Get off the computer Go jog, read a book or start writing (without the computer) but in a journal or diary.
1. Implement a Facebook-free day once a month. Go one full day without facebook. Do it often enough and soon it becomes just a social network and you will learn to be master over it. Never let it master you.