Taking social media breaks in the workplace can be beneficial in increasing employee productivity. For the millennial generation of workers who grew up with the Internet, regular “coffee breaks” just don’t satisfy them. More enjoyable “social media breaks” have been proven to satisfy that need to decompress, refocus, and quickly resume working.
Following a 2013 study conducted by Dr. Brent L.S. Coker from the University of Melbourne, the research team coined the phrase, workplace internet leisure browsing (WILB). They found that contrary to the commonly held belief that non-work related web surfing causes less productivity in the workplace, such activity actually “replenishes attentional resources.” When the 300 study participants were able to take these social media breaks, they returned to work even more vigilantly at their tasks. This “forbidden fruit” failed to distract them from productive work. Once these participants were able to scroll through their social media newsfeeds and connect with friends and family online, their minds reset, enabling them to start fresh when they focused on work again.
Creating the Optimal Social Media Break Policy
Creating the optimal social media policy for the organization’s workplace culture is vital to increasing the success of this process. Simply informing employees that they have freedom to access their social media accounts in the workplace could cause a decrease in productivity. Though some freedom cultivates creativity and should be allowed to flourish, boundary lines need to be established.
A National Workplace Flexibility Study released in 2014 showed that flexibility in the workplace brought a 53 percent increase to employee morale as well as a 20 percent increase in their productivity level. However, the study also showed that these same employees needed boundaries to stay focused and work to their optimal ability. It is important to consider two factors when creating a social media break policy.
• Business Brand – Provide employees with guidelines for appropriate postings about the company on their personal social media accounts.
• Legal Issues – Ensure that management and employees understand the implemented policy in order to avoid any potential legal issues.
Implementing Social Media Breaks in the Workplace
When implementing social media breaks in the workplace it is vital that management maintains an open dialogue with employees in regard to finding the perfect balance of breaks and productivity.
• Designated Break – “Free” social media access all day long is not acceptable if management wants to increase productivity. Employees need to have a designated break time during which they are free to access their personal social media accounts.
• Management Monitoring – A plan must be implemented for management to actively monitor these breaks in a way that is not overtly intrusive, but where trust is built between managers and employees, knowing that this policy will not be abused. Management should consider utilizing various employee monitoring software packages that are right for the organization and company culture.
When employees know that they have a designated time each day to check their social media accounts, they will be more likely to pay attention during staff meetings and won’t be so easily tempted to check their mobile devices when they should be working.