By Angela Nuñez
“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.” -Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, announced on October 4th that there are over one billion people using the site actively each month. Some of this activity is undoubtedly happening while people are at work. Even if social media sites such as Facebook are blocked at work, people can now access them on their mobile devices. Employers may worry about productivity in relation to their employees spending time on social networking sites; however, trying to enforce strict policies against using such sites at work could actually backfire.
Innovation and creativity are key to solving today’s most challenging, complex issues—many of which the government is responsible for tackling. These two traits, though, fail to flourish in an environment with strict policies meant to police the workforce. People need freedom in order to harvest the benefits of creative thinking. Yes, some of this freedom means employees may spend some time on social networking sites not related to work, but if the overall culture of an organization emphasizes freedom and personal responsibility, innovation is much more likely to grow. Accountability is key to allowing this kind of freedom; employees must feel comfortable taking risks, but they also must know that they will be held accountable for their productivity or lack thereof.
When the focus shifts to results and goals instead of time spent working, the outcome is likely to be greater productivity and higher levels of innovation and creativity. With today’s technology, it’s not a smart move to try to ban all non-work online sites completely—it’s next to impossible anyway. Your organization will likely experience a greater ROI with policies that allow for some flexibility and put trust in the employees, which is also likely to lead to greater employee engagement. Policies like this can weed out poor performers while rewarding high performers. So if you catch one of your employees on Facebook, Twitter, or one of the many other social networking sites out there, instead of telling them to get back to work, thank them for the most recent productive action they’ve performed, and then let them get back to enjoying some freedom.