Thursday, March 30, 2017

Social media may distract employees, but should we care?

I posted this from work yesterday
Earlier this week, I asked when employees will learn that online comments can, and will, be used against them. There is another half to the workplace-social-media equation—employers, who have the task of regulating their employees’ use of social media, which happens more and more in the workplace.

Yesterday, Cleveland reporter Olivia Perkins discussed a recent survey, which found that nearly 90 percent of employees access personal social media accounts at work, to varying degrees of distraction.

The survey of 1,200 employees, at companies of varying size, found that 18 percent of respondents said they checked social media 10 times or more during the workday. On the other end of the spectrum were the 12 percent of respondents, who said they never checked social media at work. 
The on-the-job social media habits of most employees fell somewhere in between. Sixty percent of respondents said they checked social media at work one to five times daily. Ten percent said they checked social media six to 10 times during the workday. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

The question is what to do about it? My answer? In most cases, absolutely nothing. As I’ve long argued:

Employers that try regulate personal social media use out of the workplace are fighting a Sisyphean battle. I call it the iPhone-ification of the American workforce. No matter your policy trying to regulate or outright ban social media in your workplace, if your employees can take their smartphones out of their pockets to circumvent the policy, how can you possibly police workplace social media access? Why have a policy you cannot police and enforce? And, don’t forget, the NLRB is watching, too.  
Instead of regulating an issue you cannot hope to control, treat employees’ use of social media for what it is—a performance issue. If an employee is not performing up to standards because he or she is spending too much time on the internet, then address the performance problem. Counsel, discipline, and ultimately terminate if the performance does not improve. A slacking employee, however, will not become a star performer just because you limit his or her social media access; he or she will just find another way to slack off. Instead of wasting your resources to fight a battle you cannot win, reapportion them to win battles worth fighting.

We ask so much of our employees. The 9-to-5 is no longer relevant. If my employee, who is giving up night and weekends for me, wants to spends a few minutes during the workday posting to Facebook, or checking the score of last night's game, or buying something on Amazon, I just don't care (unless you are working in a safety-sensitive position, and then why the hell are you on your phone at all‽), unless and until it reaches the level of distraction and impacts performance. Then, however, we are treating the performance problem, not the technology problem, which is the appropriate and practical solution.