Over the past decade, social media has become an integral part of the everyday life of most people. The rise of smartphones has further popularized the use of various social media networks by providing instant access to these platforms. From being a novelty to becoming an addiction for countless people, the growth of social media has been over the past several years has been truly phenomenal. Consequently, more than 70% of people with internet access today use at least one of the eight popular social media platforms regularly. However, this given rise to the debate of whether allowing social media for their employees at the workplace can prove beneficial or damaging for an organization.
Social media usage – a boon or a bane
The desire to stay constantly connected and updated makes employees feel the need to use social media at work. However, most organizations consider the use of social media at work as just an unproductive activity. While on the one hand social media usage at work can drain the productivity of the employees, the appropriate use of social networking for marketing and other activities can also prove immensely beneficial for organizations. Hence, it is not surprising that the policy for the usage of social media in the workplace often toes a fine line. There are strong opinions both in favor of and opposing the use of this technology at the workplace. That is why organizations need to carefully consider the pros and cons before devising an effective social media policy.
Pros and Cons of using social media
Like any other technology, social media comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Having a clear understanding of both these aspects is essential to assess its impact on employee productivity and performance. Discussed below are the most important pros and cons that can help organizations to strike a perfect balance between the use of social media at work and employee performance.
- Boosts employee morale and engagement: Allowing employees access to social media sites is known to boost their morale and engagement level. This is because the freedom to check their social media accounts even while working enhances the happiness of employees. Consequently, they tend to be more productive, friendly and loyal, which definitely proves to be a win-win situation for any organization.
- Enhances employer branding: When employees are allowed to use social media at work, the chances of them posting positive and fun things about the organization increase considerably. This helps to create a positive brand image of the organization and improve its employer branding among prospective candidates.
- It reduces employee distraction: It is human nature to be more focused and constantly curious about something that people are preventing from doing. This applies to social media usage as well and employees are likely to be more distracted by their inability to access their profiles than when they are allowed to do so.
- Helps strengthen workplace relationships: Social media sites provide a platform for people to communicate in an informal setting. This can actually help to strengthen workplace relationships by providing coworkers and managers a platform to interact with the employees in a more open and frank manner.
- Promote the building of professional networks: Social media channels such as LinkedIn are being increasingly used to build professional links and networks. This can actually prove extremely beneficial for businesses as the employees can use these links to enhance their workplace performance. In addition, they can use the information gained through these networks for business promotion and other value-adding activities.
- Misuse by employees: It is a well-acknowledged fact that social media usage has turned into an addiction for a large number of people today. For employees addicted to this habit, nothing can be better than the freedom to access their social media profile at work. Such employees are likely to misuse this freedom and waste their valuable time simply in viewing their profile and updating their status.
- Leakage of confidential data: Social media usage requires internet access and if that is not secured, it can provide online criminals with easy access to vital and confidential data. In addition, it also provides business competitors with countless opportunities to learn about key business strategies and gain competitive advantage.
- Increases the possibility of virus attack: The freedom to use social media also makes it possible for employees to download malicious content from social media platforms. This increases the possibility of a virus or malware attack on the laptops and computers as well as the corporate systems through the internal corporate network. This can result in a major financial loss as well as the loss of reputation for the organization.
Social media, when used responsibly can boost employee motivation and performance in a significant manner. This can be ensured only through a flexible but comprehensive social media policy outlining appropriate and inappropriate behaviors with respect to social media usage at work.