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Workplace Time Wasters: Facebook vs. the Two-Martini Lunch

The generation entering the workforce has strong opinions about social media access in the workplace, and companies need to accommodate that attitude. Managers seem to have this concern that access to social media is going to fatally sap worker productivity, causing the collapse of the organization. Balderdash. Social media use is just the newest in a long line of diversions employees have used when bored at work, and companies need to stop treating the symptom and focus on the cure: Engagement.

Here is the research that sparks our comments, in which the college students surveyed reported that:

  • Over half of them globally (56%) would either turn down or ignore a job offer from a company that banned access to social media.
  • Two-thirds of them will ask about social media usage policies during job interviews.

So, if you’re going to be tough guys about social media access (and internet access in general) you might just cut yourself off from a large cohort of potentially productive employees over the next few years.

A corollary that must be kept in mind: Time-wasting at work is as ancient as capitalism. Think about how previous generations used the currently available “communicating devices” to keep in touch with their social circles:

  • The Greatest Generation crowded around the water cooler, wasting vitally productive hours gossiping unless closely policed by curmudgeony supervisors (who had their own water-coolers, and so on up the line.)
  • Or it was the two-martini lunch chewing up productivity?
  • And we have always had the phone: Most Baby Boomers had access to one at work from day one on the job, and used it liberally to keep in touch.
  • Then came e-mail, and Baby Boomers and Gen-X certainly used that at work to keep in touch with their social crowd. Does mass e-mailing of jokes to your distribution list ring a bell with anyone?
  • Finally, the same dynamic is now seen with Facebook and other social media outlets. You cannot keep people from communicating. It is literally in our DNA.

The point is, you do not win the productivity battle by banning current social connection practices. People will find ways to divert themselves unless they are fully engaged in their work. The better approach is to co-opt the practice by engaging employees and inspiring them to concentrate their prodigious energy on work tasks. You create an atmosphere in which the employee simply has no time for socializing because they are creating value for which they know they will be valued!

Sometimes the answer is really that simple!

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