Facebook in the Workplace: Boon or Bane?

By . Filed in Web 2.0

How many of us had the time when you were covertly playing certain game on your workplace’s desktop, only to reflexively press Alt + Tab button at the first hint of your boss? If you are slower by a second or two, your boss would’ve caught you and gave you a good work ethic lecture.

facebook in the workplace
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Well, it’s not uncommon for employers to frown upon such distractions, but what about Facebook minus the games? Can employees still work productively if they are allowed to use it freely? Also, more than games, the Facebook gives you an outlet to express yourself to others while you are stressed at work. To put simply, can it be a truly effective tool for work-stress management? We’ll discuss about this.

Organizational Culture

In my opinion, whether or not employees are allowed to access Facebook usually depends on the organizational culture. Put simply, organizational culture describes the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization. The amount of freedom and trust given to the employees would probably affect the employer’s decision on whether to restrict or ban certain non-work activities.

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Naturally, the more freedom one possesses, the more control he or she will have. Indeed, in the field of industrial-organizational psychology, the amount of control a person can exert over his or her job can reasonably predicts job satisfaction and stress level. In that sense, a restriction of usage of social media like Facebook can decrease employees’ job control, which consequently make them less satisfied and more stressed with their work.

Blocking access to Facebook speaks volume on the lack of trust employers have over their employees. Or for that matter, any attempt to control employees’ activities already reduces the level of trust. What’s more, the attempt may not be successful with the increasing usage of smartphones.

Facebook Addiction

On the other hand, just as it’s possible to get addicted to games, it’s also possible for Facebook too. It’s understandable that employers are concerned over how the habit of checking Facebook every fifteen minutes might spin out of control.

To make things even more complicated, Facebook can be more addictive than games because it gets updated regularly whenever one of your friends post something. It’s not unusual to be distracted and get curious with what your peers are up to when your work gets repetitive and boring.

More Than A Game

This brings up the idea that Facebook is more than games, because it has a heavy social element in it. You can chat with your friends through it, see photos, comments and status updates and post them yourselves for others to see.

Much as many experts have claimed that such platform does not allow for true communication between two parties, it is still undeniable that people have resorted to Facebook to satisfy their social needs. In our increasingly busy societies, would a platform like Facebook improve workplace productivity by satisfying employees’ social needs and rendering them less stressful?

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One might argue though, that turning to digital communication to fulfill one’s social needs can disrupt the cohesiveness of employees at work. Can face-to-face communication between colleagues get reduced because of a certain dependency on Facebook to socialize? If so, productivity at work might be affected because some amount of attention is devoted to socializing on the networking site, instead of building lasting work relationships with co-workers.

Solution: Setting Ground Rules?

With the above-mentioned issues at stake, would it help if the company set some ground rules? On one hand, the employer has to establish that trust with his or her employees by providing for more job control. A happy employee is a productive employee.

On the other hand, the employer has to ensure that the usage of Facebook would not compromise the work to be done. Facebook can be incredibly addictive, and it has the potential to substitute deep and meaningful face-to-face conversation at the workplace.

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As you can tell, there is a need to strike a balance between maintaining employees’ positive mood and their motivation to work. How about setting aside a certain time for employees to engage in such activities as checking their Facebook accounts? For instance, during lunch hours or tea breaks? To this point you might probably ask why not ban their Facebook usage? According to PCWorld, it is not advisable for companies to actually ban Facebook at work.

One ‘But’: The Rise of Smart Phones

Of course, with the prevalence of smartphones like iPhones, Blackberry and such in the market, restricting access to Facebook at work may prove to be redundant. Anyone could access their Facebook, play games, surf pornographic sites, etc with such multipurpose devices.

rise of smartphones
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Unless a company is authoritative enough to ban the use of such smartphones, there’s pretty much little that employers can do. Essentially speaking, much of the responsibility falls on the employees’ shoulders.

My Two Cents’ Worth: It’s All Boils Down to Work Culture

Given that it’s not wise to place restrictions on Facebook access, and that employees today have a lot more say with what they do at work (with advanced technology like smartphones), is there no way employers can manage the use of Facebook to maintain optimal productivity?

Personally, I think the best way to influence how employees behave in the workplace is via the organization’s culture. And guess what, the effect is more likely to be more lasting than imposing rules and regulations.

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It’s similar to how a country maintains order through laws. If people understand the rationales behind laws, they will be more than happy to follow them and be satisfied with the ruler. If, however, people do not understand why a certain law is passed, they simply follow out of fear of punishment. More people would break the law to challenge it in the latter scenario.

Productivity, The Ultimate Goal

Okay, back to my point, in any organization, the employers have to instil the right working attitude in employees so that they would understand that the ultimate goal is productivity, and also equally important these days, teamwork.

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The message should be that they are free to access Facebook anytime they want, but not at the cost of their own productivity or their relationship with colleagues. With that, employees feel that they can be trusted to make their own judgment and hence stay satisfied with the company. At the same time, they remain motivated to do what they have to do.

Developing a strong work ethic in the workplace can go a long way too. If employees simply don’t care and access Facebook when there’s work to be done, chances are that any newcomer would follow suit as well.

So, behold the power of cultivating a constructive work culture.

Author:

Michael is a freelance blogger and regular contributor for Hongkiat.com. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a double major in Psychology and Communications & New Media in 2011.He believes in the power of the written word to influence and inspire. An enthusiastic video gamer, Michael is also actively engaged in various physical activities in his spare time.

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