May 16, 2017

The productivity balancing act

The term BYOD is pretty much obsolete. So obsolete in fact, that it probably needs to be spelt out for the younger generation in the workplace who may not even recognise the term. BYOD stands for ‘bring your own device’ and it relates to employees bringing their own electronic equipment to use in the workplace. Of course, we all bring our own devices into work these days – otherwise, it would mean leaving our phones at home.

Smartphone usage is now so ubiquitous that it feels like everyone has one. And almost everyone does. A 2016 survey by the business advisory company, Deloitte, found that 81% of the UK population is now in possession of a smartphone.

This prevalence of smartphones and other devices has blurred the lines between work and leisure. We can all work pretty much anywhere, anytime – on the tube, on the way to work, from home, from holiday… This has made us more productive, right? Not necessarily. Work has crept into leisure time, but the reverse is also true – leisure time has crept into work time. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube….it’s all there and we can keep up with whatever is going on in social media as and when we want to throughout the working day. Or can we? Not all employers are happy about employees logging onto their social media accounts in work hours. Over a third (36%) of employers are so unhappy about it that they block social media at work. So says a survey by the law firm Proskauer.

It’s certainly not the only research saying this. A survey by the American research firm, Statista, found that one in five Americans cannot access Facebook at work, 15% cannot access Twitter and 14% cannot access YouTube. However, short of actually banning employees’ phones in the workplace (and which employer would want or dare to do that?), can employers actually prevent people from logging onto social media when at work?

One of employers’ major concerns is of course that social media is a constant distraction and adversely affects productivity. But, what if the reverse if true? What if social media can actually increase productivity?

Social media can be good for forging connections, helping employees to build valuable internal and external networks. It assists collaboration by enabling employees to share data, information and insights quickly and easily and with a wider network than would otherwise be possible. By being plugged into social networks and actively involved in discussions and forums, employees are more likely to keep up to date with market trends and events. They bring those insights and market knowledge back into the workplace and their everyday work.

Most businesses have cottoned onto the positives of social media – 90% of those polled in the Proskauer report use social media for business purposes. Those businesses are still concerned about what their employees are up to on social media, although it’s not just productivity that is an issue – misuse of confidential information and misrepresenting the views of the business were highlighted as the two top concerns.

Whether it’s productivity, misuse of information or misrepresenting the views of the business that your organisation is worried about (or all three) what is important is that employers and HR think about how to manage social media in the workplace. Have clear policies around what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour and make sure those policies are communicated widely and regularly. Social media is here to stay so work out the best, most appropriate way to manage it in your workplace.