Psychology 2.0: Social Media at Work

Psychology 2.0: Social Media at Work

Posted Nov 29, 2011

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, etc. were created as forums to connect people.  As a result, many of us have moved away from in-person networking to online networking.  The rise of smartphone usage has also enabled us to access these social networks anytime, anywhere.

The question is:  What are the psychological implications when companies block access to social networking sites at work?

To answer the question, one needs to understand why are social networking sites blocked in the first place.  Robert Half Technology1, a staffing provider of IT resources, conducted a survey where they interviewed more than 1,400 chief information officers from companies across the US. 

They asked:  What is your company's policy on visiting social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter while at work?"

  • 54% said their firms do not allow employees to visit social networking sites for any reason while at work
  • 19% allow for business purposes only
  • 16% allow for limited personal use
  • 10% allow unlimited personal use

The top reasons for blocking social networking sites at work are:

  1. Loss in productivity
  2. Exposure of company's computers and networks to viruses and spyware
  3. Leaking of corporate information
  4. Potential to create legal liability for company

If you look across the office, you will notice that many people are frequently looking at their personal smart phones (or even tablets).  Either to check email, look at the latest updates on Facebook, or send a text message to a friend. 

When you tell someone not to do something, what tends to happen?  They will do it.  As a result of blocking sites, people psychologically spend more time trying to access them via their personal phones. 

We hear about people being fired because of something they tweeted or posted on Facebook all the time.  So many of us understand the consequences of saying or doing something that can be compromising. 

Boundaries between personal and work life have become blurred.  It started with the Blackberry, where people became addicted to the blinking red light and had to respond to each incoming email.

Accessing social networking sites isn't different.  We have become a society that must know what's happening at every moment. 

Recently, Watson Wyatt2, a global consulting firm, conducted a study done of approximately 325 organizations across various industries around the world.  They found that:

  • 60% felt social media fostered collaboration and idea sharing
  • 58% found social media helped with team building
  • 42% thought it engaged the workforce in real-time

The case for allowing access to social networking sites becomes even greater as younger generations enter the workforce.  I think it should be allowed.  What do you think?

Sources: 1. Robert Half Technology via Socialcast Infographics 2. Watson Wyatt via Socialcast Infographics