Today, I was on a panel at The Big Social Conference 2018, on behalf of Manchester Metropolitan University:

The impact of social media in the workplace: creating healthy digital habits

Social media in business is no longer a novelty, it’s a necessary means of communication; to set tasks, promote company profile and build relationships. However, while it can certainly be an advantage to a company’s marketing efforts, social media use can also open the door to numerous risks when not diligently managed. Within this panel discussion our expert speakers will be discussing the pros and cons of social media for business and how to create a good social media policy in the workplace that will benefit your company and employees.

Questions

The questions we were asked to think about (based on suggestions I/other panellists made) were (and my thinking notes):

Book Extract

I’ve got a book chapter coming out in the Autumn, from which I share a short extract:

Challenges in the Workplace

The ubiquitous nature of digital has also raised new questions for both employers and employees, requiring a redrawing of boundaries. A 2015 survey highlighted that 87% of people check work email outside of work, and 50% check it on vacation;[1] few countries have gone as far as France in 2016, which introduced a ‘right to disconnect’ law, enabling employees in larger companies to fully relax in their time off. [2] There is also the question of employees accessing the internet for personal reasons during work time. This could be either on their work machine, in which case the employer is entitled to monitor usage,[3] or on personal mobile devices, either of which could have a profound effect on productivity, especially if someone is spending excessive time internet shopping or dealing with family issues. For any employees engaging in gambling or accessing pornography at work, there may be bigger questions that human resources departments need to deal with, including addiction and financial concerns. There are also questions as to the kind of content that employees are posting online, including publically expressing grievances.[4] Companies need to develop responsive and flexible policies on the use of digital tools at work, and make these clear to employees. The use of social media could be banned altogether, but this fails to recognise that social media is a legitimate communication tool for some, or that work-life balance is important for staff morale, especially when staff are putting in hours over and above what they are paid for. ACAS suggests that it can be helpful to set guidelines on ‘reasonable use’, in consultation with any unions, to make expectations clear, and in a way that is seen as fair.[5]

So far we have looked at questions that have a legal aspect, but there are also questions of etiquette, and one that concerns many is the use of laptops, tablets or mobile phones during face-to-face meetings. This is also a question that has occupied those within higher education. Taneja, Fiore and Fischer summarised how digital technologies have become ‘necessary to do the work at hand’ and that laptops have been ‘found to improve students’ attentiveness and engagement in class’, although it is also possible that this can lead to people undertaking off-topic tasks.[6] In 2015, Lewis considered the use of computers within the classroom in an annual media-literacy training course:

In the early years of MediaLit, some delegates found the continuous presence of laptops within the classroom overwhelming, although the increasing use of mobile devices has made the ‘barrier’ laptop lids less problematic. Over time, the presence of technology has become more normative, although conversations continued to arise as to what technology was bringing to, or taking away from, the classroom experience. Taneja, Fiore & Fischer (2015) noted that students look to others within their group to understand ‘acceptable behaviour’. If social pressures to engage with material unrelated to the course are strong, students are more likely to ‘cyber-slack’.[7]

A lot of educationalists and pastors have accepted that, if the content is engaging enough, people will engage. That engagement, however, may include looking up related content online, sharing material, or the digital equivalent of doodling. For those who don’t understand what others are doing, this can appear as disrespectful or distracting, leading to frustration. This may require conversation, being prepared to explain what one is engaging with, or not jumping to conclusions as to what others are doing. People learn and engage in a range of ways, sometimes in ways that can be seen as multitasking, of which we can define two types:

  • Constructive: having Instant Messenger, music or search open, which contributes to something the user is working on;
  • Distractive: watching TV on demand, videos, or playing games, which pulls users away from the current focus.[8]

It is appropriate to have conversations about expectations for meetings, and, at times, to indicate that the content requires engagement without a digital presence, or reassurance that the meeting’s purpose is being respected by participants.

[1] Reaney, P. (2016). ‘U.S. Workers Spend 6.3 Hours A Day Checking Email: Survey’. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/check-work-email-hours-survey_us_55ddd168e4b0a40aa3ace672

[2] Ruiz, M. (2016). ‘The French Girl’s Guide to Not Checking Your Work Email’. Retrieved from:

http://www.vogue.com/13440376/france-work-email-banned-on-weekends/

[3] Citizens Advice Bureau. (2016). ‘Monitoring at work’. Retrieved from: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/rights-at-work/basic-rights-and-contracts/monitoring-at-work/

[4] ACAS. (2016). ‘Social media, discipline and grievances’. Retrieved from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3378
[5] ACAS. (2016). ‘Social media and managing performance’. Retrieved from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3376
[6] Taneja, A., Fiore, V. and Fischer, B. (2015). Cyber-slacking in the classroom: Potential for digital distraction in the new age. Computers and Education 82: 141–51.
[7] Lewis, B. (2015). ‘MediaLit: Engaging Faith and Media in a Digital Age’. Retrieved from:

https://www.academia.edu/13281147/MediaLit_Engaging_Faith_and_Media_in_a_Digital_Age

[8] Lewis, B. (2014). Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst, p. 170.

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