Taking Social Media out of Quarantine Boosts Productivity

Does this ever happen to you at work?

  • You know you saw a posting about a research report that would save you a lot of time on your current project – but the site is blocked.
  • You’re taking a client to lunch and you want to look up a good restaurant to take them to bu,t OpenTable is blocked.
  • You want to collaborate with other professionals in your industry to get questions answered quickly and serve customers better, but sites like LinkedIn are blocked.

social media 2If you find yourself frustrated by your employer’s social media policies, you are not alone. The days’ employees want access to social media tools so much that they use their own devices at work and flout company policy.  According a recent survey of 9,908 information workers in 32 countries, conducted for Microsoft by research firm Ipsos, nearly half of employees report that social media tools at work help increase their productivity. The survey also found that 39 percent of employees feel there isn’t enough collaboration in their workplaces, and 40 percent believe social tools help foster better teamwork. Over 30 percent said they are willing to spend their own money to buy social tools.

“Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now they are increasingly bringing their own services as well,” said Charlene Li, founder and analyst at Altimeter Group, a firm that studies social media and other technology trends. “Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected, but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives.”

On the employer side of the survey,  more than 30 percent of companies underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use despite indications that social media tools do, in fact, make many employees more productive. Studies recently highlighted in Forbes Magazine from Evolve and the Warwick Business School demonstrates the productivity gains of “social employees.”

According to the Evolve study, employees who used one to four social networking sites per week stayed at their jobs longer than their peers. The “ultra-social set” – those who regularly used more than five social networks – demonstrated higher sales in less time than their colleagues. You can get the full report from Evolve for the cost of your name and email address.

Access to social media tools is critical for marketing professionals yet I commonly hear of organizations that block social media for all but a very small percentage of employees. Does this mean that employees don’t use social media? No. It simply means that their use is less productive and the employer loses the ability to know what social sites are being used because they will be used on non-company devices.

According to the research firm McKinsey, if companies fully implemented social technologies, certain industries could raise productivity by 20 to 25 percent; particularly those with high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals. However, the Evolve study suggests that even hourly call-center workers can benefit.

I guess we can tweet about it – but the companies who need to hear this won’t be listening. Well – maybe they’ll see this post on the personal smartphone that is hiding next to their blackberry.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group

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