skip to main content
Why Social Networking Belongs in the Workplace

Why Social Networking Belongs in the Workplace

by Nicole Linger

Many organizations are wary of their employees' use of social networking sites on company time. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, many employers believe that social media sites drain workforce productivity and waste employees' time. A recent survey shows that 42% of organizations ban workers' use of social media sites. However, allowing employees to use social networking sites while in the workplace may increase employees' well-being, which directly affects a company's bottom line.

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are an integral part of our everyday communication in both the business and the social arena. Employers who support work-life integration and overall employee well-being must accept this. Employees who have higher overall well-being have lower absenteeism levels, are less likely to leave the organization within the next year, and have a greater chance of being engaged and productive.

Gallup's research into well-being shows that there are five major elements to a life well lived: Career Well-Being, Social Well-Being, Financial Well-Being, Physical Well-Being, and Community Well-Being. If an individual can interconnect the five elements, all the better.

We spend the majority of our weekdays doing something similar to primary paid work, a job, or vocation. Our research shows that just 30% of employees have a best friend at work. Those who do are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher-quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.

In contrast, those without a best friend in the workplace have just a one in 12 chance of being engaged. If we know that these friendships create a more productive environment, the use of social networking sites to build connections can only be a positive. Social connections build camaraderie among colleagues and lead to a free flow of business ideas, support, and trust.

Gallup research suggests that we need six hours a day of social time to achieve and maintain "thriving" status. Because we spend the majority of our weekdays at work, it is important for employers to create opportunities for social interaction in the workplace. What better way to do this than to have a best friend at work? Without a friend, work is a lonely place. We also need the opportunity to connect with our relationships outside of the workplace during the working day. In the past, this was done via telephone or email. Now people rely on new technologies to communicate, and employers too must follow this path.

Today's environment is increasingly flexible; employers must focus on outcomes rather than process and hours at the desk. The demand placed on employees to deliver longer hours in and away from the workplace also requires them to be offered greater freedom during the work day. Social networking breaks actually make people more productive; employees do not use them to play games such as "Farmville." Most employees use social networking to build and sustain the human relationships that drive their social well-being. The younger generation expects to have access to this mode of communication during their working day. Without this, they may take their talent elsewhere.

While it is the responsibility of any organization to monitor the use of social networking in its teams (any manager should be aware of forms of abuse), employers should recognize that, in 2012, just as we used to pick up the phone and dial a friend to take a break, it is now as common to "tweet" or give a "status update." All in the name of career and social well-being.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030