If your organization has a social media policy for employees, you may be losing out on referrals, productivity and other advantages.

stock-photo-business-technology-and-peop-2644241Although more than half — 51 percent — of full- and part-time workers say their employer has rules about using social media at work, because some employees legitimately need to access social media sites to perform job responsibilities, it can be difficult for companies to completely block social media access.

According to recent research, that may actually be a good thing.

While certainly some employees check Facebook, Twitter and other social sites excessively, many just log in briefly, the way an employee would quickly check a personal email account or take a phone call — two other actions it’s hard, in the era of mobile devices, for companies to fully prevent. 

Sixty percent of employees, in fact, say they check social media at work one to five times a day, according to a 2017 survey from EAP provider ComPsych; 12 percent report they never do. Employees, according to a BambooHR survey, actually spend more time on kitchen, water cooler and snack breaks; bathroom visits and chatting with coworkers.

Social media misuse may not be as much of an issue as employers assume; and, in some instances, visiting social media sites can provide several benefits. A fifth of U.S. employees, for example, use social media to get information that helps them solve problems at work, according to a 2016 Pew survey

If it’s time to rethink your stance on social media use at work, the following reasons to give employees social media access may inspire you to make a change:

stock-illustration-social-media-icons-se-836791-750576-editedSocial media can provide a much-needed mental break

Performance may be affected without one. Consider the study involving Israeli judges who, without breaks, repeatedly resorted to the easiest parole option — saying no — compared to situations in which judges had two daily breaks; which, according to Psychology Today, suggests working to the point of burnout can lead to fatigued decision making. Although the 34 percent of workers Pew found spend time on social media to take a mental break may not be using social media sites with a specific intent to avoid fatigued decision making, spending a few minutes on Facebook during the afternoon could potentially have that effect.

Hitting pause may help, instead of hurt productivity

While it’s easy to assume social media use could completely throw output off, some studies indicate it could have the opposite effect. A study conducted years ago, in 2009, by the University of Melbourne suggests employees who engage in leisure browsing at work — visiting non-work-related sites and communicating with friends and family — are 9 percent more productive than ones who don’t. That number appears to have risen; more than a third (34 percent) of U.K. workers who participated in a 2017 FreeOfficeFinder survey said social media use at work made them more productive.

stock-photo-people-multimedia-and-techno-2358303The connections employees make may actually help your organization

Workers aren’t solely on Facebook for the viral videos. Nearly a quarter say they log on in the office to pose work-related questions to people either in or outside of their organization, which could help them complete tasks more effectively; social media may also be helping employees foster a sense of teamwork. Seventeen percent of employees say they hop on during the day to learn about someone they work with. An additional seven percent do it to build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers.  

In addition to the workplace benefits social media may provide, letting employees use the sites during the day is often just a more practical option.

Policies that completely ban social media can be extremely difficult to enforce; in some cases, employees aren’t even aware they exist. A 2016 survey from staffing service Ajilon found a quarter of employees either didn’t know their employer had a social media policy for employees or weren’t familiar with it.

If productivity is a concern at your organization, you may be able to improve it by focusing on other areas. Our blog posts on how to improve worker productivitythwarting major workplace distractions, three ways to effectively engage off-site employees and encouraging employees to take time off to refuel may help.

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