Shocked. Astonished. Stunned. We’re reeling from the results of a new study on the use of social media in the workplace that indicates — deep breath, now — that while it’s sometimes useful for “connection with colleagues and outside experts,” it can also be a distraction for workers.  

A post on the venerable Pew Research Center’s website sums it up:

A Pew Research Center survey of 2,003 American adults (including 795 who are currently employed on a full- or part-time basis) conducted Sept. 11-14 and 18-21, 2014, finds that social media plays some role in the lives of many American workers – but that role is not always clear-cut or entirely positive.

Wow. Now who’d a thought that?

This research reminds us that there’s an awful lot of  “data” available to HR pros, and much of it is a big waste of time. A survey that reveals social media has both good and bad sides? We needed a Pew study to answer that question?

Here’s the first odd thing that struck us about this survey: It supposedly involved a couple thousand “American adults,” but only about 800 who were actually in the workplace. And only the 800 workers were asked about their on-the-job social media habits. So what were the other 1,200 “respondents” doing?

Now, we don’t want to seem churlish here. There are some fascinating insights into what employees are doing on social media:

  • 34% use it to take a mental break from their job
  • 27% to connect with friends and family while at work
  • 24% to make or support professional connections
  • 20% to get information that helps them solve problems at work
  • 17% to build or strengthen personal relationships with coworkers
  • 17% to learn about someone they work with
  • 12% to ask work-related questions of people outside their organization, and
  • 12% to ask such questions of people inside their organization.

A load of “aha!” moments there, right?

More deep insights

And how about these nuggets: Fourteen percent of participants workers have found information on social media that has improved their professional opinion of a colleague; 16% have found information that has lowered their professional opinion of a co-worker.

Here’s a tidbit that could be useful: Workers whose employers have policies on the use of social media are less likely to use social media for personal reasons during work hours.

And although the Internet seems ubiquitous in today’s workplace, 17% of respondents says they “hardly ever” use the interwebs at work — and 25% say they never do.

So what’s the takeaway from this groundbreaking research? The Pew post ties things up nicely:

Social media influences and permeates many aspects of daily life for Americans today, and the workforce is no exception. These digital platforms offer the potential to enhance worker productivity by fostering connections with colleagues and resources around the globe. At the same time, employers might worry that employees are using these tools for non-work purposes while on the job or engaging in speech in public venues that might reflect poorly on their organization.

Glad we could help provide this crucial information.

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