Are social networking sites decreasing productivity at work?

Social Networking SitesAlka Gupta, a Sales professional, compares logging on to her Facebook account with brushing her teeth in the morning. Like the first thing she does every morning is to brush her teeth, the first thing she does after reaching office is to boot her computer and log on to Facebook.

“I must confess I am addicted to Facebook. It’s like a great stress buster to me. I am logged on the whole day and often take time out of my work schedule to keep updating pictures and my profile data.”

‘It is interactive and informative – as it provides with information of upcoming events and serves as a reminder to you of important days of your friends, colleagues, clients and business associates.”

No wonder with so many reasons, Facebook has 8 million loyal users in India alone, followed by other online users active in sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Orkut, Bigadda and Hi5.

“As a PR professional, I feel social networking sites is a great boon to our industry”, says Vinod Mehra, Associate Director, in a PR and Advertising firm.

“Through such sites, people feel empowered to communicate. This informal mode of communication could effectively help an employer gauge his employee’s opinion about the organisation. Vice-versa, employees could use social networking sites to form credible opinion about certain things that feel strongly about their company’s policies.”

The existence of social networking sites at workplace have been severely criticised by top management, HR managers and employees, as it leads to distraction and reduces efficiency.

Vivek Batra, a senior HR manager in a technology firm in Gurgaon, says, “Our organisation has banned all kinds of social networking sites. I agree this Talibanisation attitude might not hold weight in today’s 24x7 connected world.”

“Since we take our business very seriously, we feel an employee could get distracted with constant mindless engagement with the Internet, in the name of social networking.Rather, we encourage our employees to indulge in active reading habits in our library or playing games such as Chess or Scrabble.”

Shalini Dongar, a professor in Sociology in a private institute in Delhi says, “The times have changed. Someone has taught us how to network on the Web - something that we could not think of 10 years back in India.” She adds, ‘It is a great idea for employees to take a brain breather for a few minutes and indulge in some online interaction with their old school mates, ex-colleagues and friends. Employers should encourage such interactions, as social networking is very human.”

Kshitij Chhabra, Head, HR of a leading fashion retail house says, “Being a company that has mostly young employees, we were fine with the idea of them using social networking sites while at work, until last year, when we were proved wrong by an external consultant.”

Continues Kshitij, “The consultant told us that employee productivity had decreased drastically by 15%, thanks to their constant engagement in online chats and updating their profiles, including posting pictures. We immediately terminated all such sites and have instead introduced a multi-gym and a table tennis table in the employee recreation room.”

Are social networking sites, tools of productivity or distraction at work? The answer probably simply lies in the balanced tagline concerning work, “Talk Less, Work More” in order to be successful at workplace and not let our work performance get affected by the growing temptations offered by the Internet.


- Suniet Bezbaroowa (views expressed in the article are that of the author)


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