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Is accessing social media reducing productivity at work?

Computers. Smartphones. Social media. Facebook. YouTube. MySpace. PDAs. Blogging.Texting. Sexting. Tweeting. Where does it end and does it all call for company policies?

No one knows for certain how much productivity is being lost while employees access social media or spend time on cell phones at work. But, it’s assumed to be substantial. We’re not talking about a mother checking on her sick child at home, either. What we are finally coming to realize is that the small personal electronic devices we find on virtually everyone’s hip or purse these days are really powerful little computers and cameras.

Granted, they’re great tools for socializing and communicating. But like it or not, they’re not only part of our social lives, but now part of the work place. And that raises some obvious questions. Like, is there a potential dark side to all this? More pointedly, how much time do these modern gadgets steal from productive work at work? We’d like to think “not much.” Odds are, however, it’s significant.

A recent article in Entrepeneur, for example, asked the question “Boon or Bane?” about today’s social media scene. Citing research by Nucleus IT, some workers go to social media sites only while at work and spend as much as two hours a day on them! Extreme cases? Maybe, maybe not! The article also noted a study by the IT staffing firm of Robert Half Technology that found a majority (54 percent) of more than 1,400 chief information officers surveyed reported their firm now bans employee access to social media sites. 

Short of banning (questionable as to effectiveness), there really isn’t any black and white answer as to what a business can or should do about time spent in social media. However, if you want to check out lots of current policies at both large and small firms, go to www.socialmediagovernance.com and you can view 152 different policies. American Honda Motors, for example, reportedly requires employees to have a “business case” for accessing websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. Just the number (152) of policies catalogued on the website casts light on the thorny nature of the question about work time wasted around today’s versions of the “water cooler.”

Clearly technology has caused the line between work life and personal life to be more blurred than ever. So, the questions today for small businesses like boat dealerships (for manufacturers as well) are: (1) Do you know if productivity at your dealership is being negatively impacted because too much work time is spent on social media? (2) What are you currently doing about it? And, (3) what policies are you or should you consider for the future?

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