Facebookin’ on the job boosts productivity?

Ok, maybe posting pictures of you from that awesome Black Keys concert from the night before or gossiping about who unfriended who on Facebook while on the job is more of a productivity killer.

However, earlier this week, Microsoft released the results of a global survey conducted by Ipsos regarding the use of social tools in the workplace.  Nearly 10,000 individuals responded from over 32 countries, all of which were from various industries and age groups.  While the results aren’t necessarily surprising, leaders definitely need to be aware of the emerging trends.

networkingBefore getting into the results, I want to point out that it’s obvious why Microsoft commissioned the survey.  With products like SharePoint and Lync, Microsoft is building a business case for implementing more social enterprise tools within organizations.   With that being said, the trends are still very real:

  • 46% of respondents stated that their productivity increased because of their use of social tools.
  • 40% stated that social tools have results in more collaboration in their workplace.
  • 39% stated that other individuals in their organization did not collaborate enough.
  • The top reported use of social tools was to communicate with colleagues, followed by reviewing documents and communicating with customers/clients.

If you look online, you can find various opinions regarding the use of social tools in the workplace.  We can see there’s a trend based on the results above, but there are also individuals who feel social tools do not belong in the workplace.  Some say it could be comparable to putting the water cooler outside of everyone’s workspace.

The purpose of these tools, at least from a business perspective, is to increase communication.  If you can increase communication, it should be easier to increase collaboration.  Sure, the use of these tools can lead to non-work related discussions among employees, but in today’s work environment where resources are scarce and employees are doing more with less, this should be embraced.  There is no longer a clear line between work life and personal life.

There is one clear benefit to using these tools that I can identify that’s not listed in the survey results: documentation.

emailFor example, everyone has preferences when it comes to email vs. phone calls.  Some prefer voice-to-voice interactions, while others prefer email communication.  Personally, I prefer emails to phone calls because it automatically gives me a record of the conversation.    I’m not the greatest note-taker, so if I can automate that process, I have a clearer picture of the commitments I have made along with the commitments others have made to me.

I also don’t have the greatest memory, either.  If you asked me about the details of a meeting that took place last week, I might be able to fill in the details.  If you asked me about a meeting from a few months ago, the details I can recall will be much hazier.

The more I’m able to use technology to document my interactions, the easier it will be to increase my overall productivity.  That’s because I’m spending more times on real action items, instead of simply trying to remember details.

If you’re still on the fence about using social tools in the workplace or are even a naysayer, be careful: according to the results of the survey, 17% reported that they ignored their organization’s IT policy and installed social tools on their work device(s).  Further, 28% reported that they knew of others in their organization who had done the same thing.

What has your experience been with using social tools at work?  Did they lead to an increase in productivity, or were they more of a distraction?

As always, be sure to leave your comments!

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  • Comments (2)
    • helen588
    • June 3rd, 2013

    Great post Matt.

    The one challenge I see which arises from using social tools is the demise of voice to voice communication. We will all need to become much better written communicators if the default position is going to be e-mail, facebook or twitter.
    I’ve found a number of times that colleagues have taken written communication in the wrong way just because they read the words with a different emphasis from that which the writer intended.
    That’s not to say we shouldn’t whole heartedly embrace social tools but we need to beware of completely taking the talk out of our working lives.

    • You are absolutely right, Helen. It is a common tale to have text communications misinterpreted by other individuals depending on how the text is written. There are still situations where voice should be used instead of text communications. These social tools are just that: tools. You have to use the appropriate tool based on the situation. In other words, you shouldn’t use a hammer to cut wood.

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