According to a recent article in The Australian, certain departments within the country’s government are reviewing the social media habits of their employees.
After completing an audit of the network it shares with one other division, the nation’s Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research measured 400 hours of social media usage in one week. Such activity was typically highest between 1pm and 3pm.
While the department did not consider the usage to be excessive (because of the number of its employees), one Australian senator has spoken out.
Cory Bernardi said millions of dollars were being wasted by government employees surfing social media sites.
"This government needs to advise departmental staff that formulating policy is more important than playing Facebook Scrabble," the article quoted him as saying.
Because department policy limits Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter usage except “when there is an agreed business case” and because the division employs over 2000 workers, the senator’s response is probably overstated, but it does bring up an important question: how much social media use is too much at work?
The article says that the Australian Treasury blocks YouTube, Facebook and MySpace, but allows Twitter for some staff. And of course, around the world, many companies block such services completely. But increasing restrictions may not be the best business decision, according to Ben Betts in a recent blog on the CIPD website.
Pointing out that internet access on mobile devices and the use of third party applications have the ability to mask the distractions, he insists that effective filters are impossible to implement, and ultimately not worth the actual cost or investment of time required.
Instead, any social media disruptions should be treated as an issue of work culture, he says. If it is truly endangering productivity, it should be addressed, but by dealing directly with the employees involved.
While we think Betts is right in emphasizing communication, we think that certain tools are more effective than others at helping manage time and work habits. Some newer tools, like Time Doctor, actually let you see which applications an employee is using, which sites they visit, and for how long.
Though it’s used primarily as a logging tool for remote workers, it can also ofer a low cost way of assessing waste and productivity. For most organizations, a combined approach of more information and better communication is probably the ideal approach.