Facebook users are better employees. According to new research from the University of Melbourne, people who are allowed to use Facebook at work are more productive than people who don’t have access to the social networking site.
The study shows that in offices where people are allowed access to Facebook or YouTube the workers are 9% more productive than workers who do not use these sites, or others such as Twitter. The research confirms earlier ideas that banning Facebook would be counter-productive.
One of the reasons that using Facebook at work appears to help is that it boosts concentration. Taking a break from routine work, by sending a message to a Facebook friend, or catching up on the latest Tweets provides the brain with a degree of rest – and that helps it perform better. Far from reducing your ability to work, things like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube appear to boost your brain power.
So why is it that so many bosses ban Facebook and the like? The answer is simple; they don’t understand them. Go into most offices and you’ll find newspapers, magazines, books and so on. Yet these could be just as much a distraction from work as Facebook or Twitter. But they are not banned. That’s because the bosses are familiar with them, they understand them. And even though they may frown at people flicking through a newspaper, rather than actually working, they don’t usually get too hot under the collar about it.
However, if they see someone watching a YouTube video or flicking through some pages on Facebook, they do get steamed up and want the sites “switched off” by the IT department. They feel, mistakenly, that people will spend “all day” on Facebook and not get any work done. The staff, of course, think the bosses spend “all day” in meetings or on the golf course and don’t get any work done either.
This all boils down to lack of understanding. Company productivity would be improved, this research shows, if everyone was allowed to use Facebook, or Twitter, if they wanted. Or they could read a magazine between bouts of working. Company productivity would also doubtless be increased if the bosses also helped improve staff understanding of the importance of meetings and what goes on at the golf course…!
The mistake bosses appear to make with the likes of Twitter or Facebook is that they will be so attractive to staff they will not want to work. That says more about the jobs and work that people are given, than it does about online social networking. People who enjoy their work and who are motivated by good bosses will use Facebook or YouTube as a minor daytime distraction and a boost to concentration, rather than a complete replacement for work. If people are using Facebook in the office for hours on end, it should be a signal to bosses that the work provided is boring and that they are not motivating people well.
The companies that allow Facebook and similar sites will do better in the recession than those who ban it. Just at the time when businesses need workers to be their most productive it seems that many of them are taking steps to do the exact reverse. For companies that have banned Facebook or YouTube, allowing it back into the office could be all you need to weather the storm of the recession. A 9% increase in productivity is worth having at any time, but right now it’s even more welcome.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+