Social media: friend or foe?

Social media is playing an ever-increasing role in our everyday lives. From having access on the bus or train to walking down the road – it is a constant presence.

This means it is no surprise that social media is a growing concern for employers. With distraction levels hitting all-time highs, more businesses are having to crack down to keep employees off sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It seems this approach is warranted given the results of a recent productivity study by researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway. According to its results, people who use social media during working hours exhibit poorer performance and this has a negative effect on the company's health.

In a number of workplaces, Cecilie Schou Andreassen and her colleagues studied how prolific social media use was and how it relates to reduced productivity. The study found more than one billion people worldwide use social media every day and four out of five employees use this platform during working hours.

Andreassen and her team found that the social media distraction has a "significant effect" on self-reported work performance. 

However, the results can't rule out that social media use works in reverse. For some employees, logging onto sites such as Facebook and Twitter stimulate creativity and inspires progress. Social media use can be a refreshing break from menial tasks and improve productivity later in the day. 

"Also, it cannot be ruled out that use of online social network sites aids performance, particularly if workers are interacting with their co-workers through these sites," researchers said.

For businesses, the objective is to limit social media use rather than ban it altogether. While there are issues when it is exploited, some employees can improve their productivity from a quick update of their social media profiles.

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