Stop saying nonsenses about Facebook and productivity

One day we can read that using Facebook at work increases productivity by 9%. The day after we ear that it decreases by 1,5%. Depending on people’s interest, sometimes a liberal attitude is promoted, sometimes a total ban, sometimes an internal placebo made of home-mades facebook-likes intranet. This is only my own opinion but I’d like to share it : the best way to use such surveys is to…throw them into the trask and never listen to any (disinterested) conclusion that can be drawn from them.

First I’d like to know how Facebokk’s users productivity is measured against those who don’t use it in the workplace. This means two things : those who use it at home can get benefits they’ll use once in the workplace. And vice-versa. And conversely. The second is how we know some use it and when ? Of course the IT dept can track such things, but what about mobile use on iPhone or BlackBerry ? Last, I’d like to understand what “productivity” exactly means. It’s easy to undersand what it mean on an assembly line, less in office work. Ok, the final result may be measured, but what about intermediate indicators ? Admitting that productivity is the right word, it does not take into account something that is key in the modern economy : the accumulation of knowledge at a M moment that makes someone more productive at a M’ moment. Unlike M. Taylor’s time, productivity is not an instant measurement and being less productive at a given moment helps being more productive later. For some people, Facebook may contribute to the accumulation of knwoledge.

I’d also like to point at another issue : numbers only say what you want them to say. If any service or department is underutilized, employees are obviously unproductive. Maybe that’s the reason way they use facebook in the workplace. There are many things to see about how to deal with such causality chains.

To end, we have to consider two situations : when Facebook is a work tool and when it’s not.

Case n°1 : Facebook is a work tool

Yes, facebook can be a work tool. Anyone working in marketing, employer brand, communication… learns from Facebook and from what happens they. Positively and negatively. Studying Facebook makes a lot en sense for businesses that are just starting to embrace what social medias are. Worse : if your company is using Facebook to communicare, people in charge may access it. Even HR depts are now using for recruiting Y Geners (AT&T for instance).  There are also employees who use Facebook to balance the lack of efficient collaboration platform on the intranet. I don’t think that’s a godd thing, but the best way to prevent it is to provide them with the right internal tools.

Cas n°2 : Facebook is not a work tool

That’s the case for nearly all employees. In this case, we have to look beyond the tool and adress the wider category of “non business objectifs that distract in the workplace”. Obviously they threaten productivity since people are not 100% dedicated to their work. But saying that we neglect the face no one can be 100% dedicated to his job all day long and that Facebook is only replacing other “objects” that were used before in these “low dedication moments” : coffee machine, tchating with colleagues, dozing with eyes fixed on an excel chart, walks in the corridors… Banning Facebook may only bring employees back to old habits. Ah ? They can access with their mobile phones ? So bad.

The real question is what “non working rate” is acceptable.  Doctors will tell better than me how many productive hours can be expected from employees. Then, businesses will have to try to understand why some people are going too far and help them to correct, even sanction if needed, as for every excessive non-productive behavior.

Solution : Be smart and creative

It starts with allowing access to those who actually need it. For the rest, allow a “normal” use and intervene in case of abuse, one by one. The authoritarian way (banning everything) only brings frustration, misunderstanding, without being sure the time that is saved will be used for work purposes (in fact be sure it won’t). The only thing is to determine what’s acceptable.

If the Facebook overdose (or the use of any other site, or the fact people spend their day watching the scenery thru the window) is due to idleness, better try to make people busy before banning anything. Experience shows that when employees try to escape from their work, there are often deep causes they’re not responsible for.

We can also imagine “on demand” policies : everyone has its 10 Facebook minutes every day, or making the service accessible at defined hours (lunch…).

On peut aussi imaginer des programmes “à la carte” : chacun ayant ses 10 minutes de Facebook quotidien ou le service étant accessible à certaines heures

It will always be hard for me to trust what’s said about Facebook, positive as negatuve. The real question is to know what can be expected from employees and what is the acceptable margin.

Anyway, HR and management issues won’t be solved by blocking a site. If it was the right answer, maybe companies should consider bricking up all the windows in their tower that provide such a nice view on the city.

By the way, I still can’t consider Facebook as a place for learning. My RSS reader and twitter provide me with more valuable information than Facebook.

Facebook is nothing more that the scarecrow or the Graal that embody a lot of new fears, expectations, uncertainties. Businesses just have to learn to look beyond it.

facebook, gestion-du-temps, Management, productivité, réseaux-sociaux, Ressources Humaines, temps

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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