With more than 71 percent of businesses now advertising on social platforms, it’s safe to say that social media isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. However, in an office environment, are these methods of communication and interaction beneficial or not?
Many believe social media negatively impacts workplace performance and productivity (with businesses often banning the use of these platforms). However, there’s lots of evidence to the contrary: Social media actually benefits companies and the people in them more than it hurts them.
Here are five ways that social media can boost efficiency in an office environment and reasons why you should not only allow it, but maybe even encourage employees to use it:
Research and networking
If one person can’t answer a question, social platforms let people reach out to their network of colleagues and friends to find someone who can.
If a business has a website, it often has a blog and ways for clients and customers to contact them online. With social media, research can be done in a pinch, and a business can easily find topics for blog posts and ways to boost interaction with customers, and even get feedback.
Social media has also irrevocably changed job searching. Many employers now primarily use sites like LinkedIn to find candidates to fill new positions or to expand their teams of interns or volunteers.
In fact, 79 percent of people in the U.S. are likely to use social media during their job searches. Gone are the days of putting an ad in the paper or a bulletin board.
Feedback and problem solving
No more waiting for IT to fix an issue you can’t figure it out quickly. Getting feedback is easier with social media applications that allow instant messaging and video and file uploading. Even if employees don’t have a problem, they can still get information that helps them solve lingering problems.
Feedback needs can vary, and social media makes it easier. Whether an employee needs information on work or a team needs feedback on a project before the final touches, anyone can get responses and constructive criticism quickly and easily. This ties into better collaboration, and feedback received quickly can increase the chances of completing or progressing on a project.
One of the assumptions around social media is that it is a time suck that will damage employee productivity. The truth is that workers are more likely to be productive when allowed to use social media.
Employees can actually increase their productivity by at least 9 percent when given the opportunity to browse social media sites at their leisure. The evidence shows that getting a break sometimes—even if it’s spent catching up with friends on Facebook—can increase productivity and even boost profitability as well as help meet customer demand more quickly. Breaks have always been tied to productivity, only now, they happen virtually.
Meetings can take up a significant portion of the work week. In both small and large companies, meetings can help keep employees and their supervisors on track, clear confusion and provide help to finish projects in a timely fashion.
In a perfect world, employees would be able to benefit from valuable information shared in any meeting, but that’s usually not the case. Most workers are less than satisfied with meeting outcomes and view them as a waste of time.
Using tools like GoWall, you can improve the way your meetings are run and collaborate with your team more easily and effectively. This tool allows meeting attendees to create notes for various topics that are discussed, commented on or liked to increase engagement and quality insights. It lets even introverted employees speak up by interacting online instead of in-person, as well as asking questions or conducting office opinion polls.
Other popular social options for collaboration are Slack and Workplace by Facebook. Both offer opportunities for one-on-one discussions, meetings and teams. If employees need help with a project or document, these tools offer options for screen sharing, photo taking and more.
While work will never be completely stress-free for most of us, employees who take quick breaks to use social media can decrease stress and increase morale.
Microsoft conducted a study and found that employees felt they were taking mini-vacations when allowed to use Facebook. They were able to return to work refreshed and efficient—a “stay-cation” taken to extremes.
Have a policy in place
If you are going to offer the opportunity for your employees to use social media, even if only using it for a specific purpose, it’s important to have a policy in place. Defining when social media can be used and what sites can be used are good places to start when creating this policy. A sound policy can keep everyone on the same page and prevent overuse so that it doesn’t interfere with work.
Social media also offers a great way to invest in on-the-job-training, as employees will learn to optimize the use of social media, potentially (or explicitly, as defined in your policy) to your company’s benefit.
And everyone will be happier when your employees are working from the same understanding, rather than sneaking around to use it—because they will. Wasting time on disciplinary action after the fact, rather than regulating it ahead of a slip-up, is just that: a waste of time.
Social media is a great tool for building, maintaining and scaling a business. Not only will it increase collaboration and productivity, but it can help engage employees and create a healthier and happier workplace all around. Social media isn’t going to disappear, so finding helpful ways to use it and make your business benefit from it is a smart choice.