Negative Effects of Social Media in the Workplace

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Social networking, the new trend in the workplace can be one of the most valuable tools for businesses. However, it can also cause serious problems at work. Research from the University of Bergen (UiB), shows that the use of social media for personal reasons during work can have several negative effects on work performance and the general well-being of a businesses.

“Every day, more than one billion people worldwide use social media. This habit has also invaded the workplace, as some research reports that four out of five employees use social media for private purpose during work time.”

Do the Benefits of Social Media Outweigh the Disadvantages

The overall finding of the study is that this type of distraction can potentially decrease work performance and productivity. However, it can also encourage interaction between employees and sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Twitter can be used as free or cost effective advertising channels for your business.

This is why many employers are faced with the need to employ social media policies to minimise the negative effects it has and reap the positive benefits. Because of the problems that can occur when employees abuse internet access at work for personal reasons, all employers must decide if the benefits of social media outweigh the negative impact it has.

The most important negative effects of using social media in the workplace:

1. Increased Risk of Malware

One of the disadvantages is the possibility of the company network being exposed to malware. Hackers can launch spam or commit fraud through some social media platforms. This can be very dangerous for your business and potentially damage your organisation’s networks or computers with security breaches or the corruption of important files. Technical support teams must do their best in order to protect and scan their systems for malware.

2. Damage Employee Productivity

According to a study by Nucleus Research; a company which allows its employees to use Facebook in the workplace loses 1.5% of its productivity. Instead of performing their work-related tasks, employees can get distracted and compulsively check Facebook or Twitter for status updates, photos, chat with friends or update their profiles. Even though employees may also access these social networking sites for business-related activities, the available distractions can and their effect on productivity can outweigh the positives.

3. Reduced Employee Relations

Although it was previously stated it improves interaction, this is not always the case. Social networking - which is often used for communication - can actually hurt employee relations within an organisation? Cyberbullying is a huge problem in the modern world. Coworkers may harass or send negative messages to one another and hinder teamwork and collaboration. Also, an employee having a bad day may post an update on social media about how his coworkers are annoying, and their colleagues might see the message and realise that it is aimed at or written about them. This isn’t going to help communication during their next group project, right?

4. Confidentiality and Company Image

Allowing employees to access social media platforms at work, makes your organisation more vulnerable to potential breaches in confidentiality or a possible tarnished image. Your staff may carelessly post tweets or updates regarding promotions or other business information that the company might not be ready yet to release. Constant leaks of information can happen and are a common problem by sharing confidential information with the wrong people through social media.

When creating and implementing your company’s social media policies make sure to consider all the advantages and disadvantages during office hours. Taking into consideration the proliferation of smartphones, a complete ban may be less effective than having clear guidelines on moderate use.

What do you think? Does social media have more positive or negative effects in the workplace?

See Also: A Beginner’s Guide to Boosting Your Job Prospects with Social Media

This article was originally published in July 2013.