Health inSite: Social Media Access at Work

Let’s take a moment to discuss the great ‘Social Media at Work’ debate.  You’re familiar, I’m sure, with this concept.  It starts with a question like this:

“Why would we allow our employees to spend ‘work time’ doing things other than work?”

or another popular alternative,

“Do we want to allow employees to engage in social networking where they could release PCI (a play on PHI in the health world, Protected Health Information: Private Corporate Information).”

or the myriad other great arguments for canning social media in the workplace.

In 2011, MINES had the great honor of presenting at the EAPA International Conference on Wellness Programs where we posited an alternative to traditional wellness programs that relied on the value of social media with employees as a means to increasing adoption, bolstering adherence through social relationships, and positioning health as a social venture where people are spending increasing amounts of their free (and yes, even work) time engaging in health.  The core of most Wellness programs is similar to that of traditional EAP; a sort of ‘we’re there when you need us’ or ‘wait-and-see’ approach.  Wellness programs, however, often incentivize participation through monetary carrots or sticks.  This is a one-to-one approach to health.  Those of you that get to play with relational databases, however, recognize that there are many ways to connect entities (data, people, sites, etc.).

Social Media has the ability to act in a many-to-many way; that is, connecting me to my friend, and my friend’s friend, and all of us to an expert (be it a website, user, resource, or anything else) to engage on a topic.  This is an extremely powerful tool that is starting to be leveraged by a handful of companies – similar to the group therapy model where part of treatment is engaging with other individuals that are currently in treatment, rather than solely with the doc, therapist, CAC, or sponsor.

At the conclusion of our presentation, an attendee posed the following question during the Q and A:

“My company doesn’t allow access to Social Media at work, what recommendation do you have for a company that wants to consider leveraging Social Media but its’ employees don’t have access to it.”

The answer from our CEO went something like

“At MINES, we’ve created a culture wherein every employee is expected to do their best.  I trust that my employees are doing just that and see that they do their best every day and until I see different results, I trust my employees to not abuse the system.”

Let me take a quick moment to highlight this infographic from the University of Melbourne (et. al.) which highlights some of the points on this subject.  Restricting Social Media at Work has many great arguments on its side; potentially lethal viruses, decreased bandwidth (the tech kind, not the personal productivity kind), and even legal concerns regarding PCI.  Productivity is a really common go-to, however, and the others are extremely valid.  Further, I don’t have good arguments against them (besides increasing your company’s bandwidth, installing good anti-virus software, and educating your employees on safe browsing habits), so let’s talk about the increased productivity experienced by those with unfettered access to Social Media.  Could these quotes be right?

“Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days’ work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

That’s pretty interesting and kind of common sense when you think about it.  Looking to an interview with the guru of productivity, Tim Ferriss, on LifeHack is the argument that we should…

“Take frequent breaks and strive to constantly eliminate instead of organize.”

So, despite all of the many reasons to not allow employees onto these Social Media sites, here we see the interplay of increasing productivity by taking breaks, and Social Media as an opportunity to boost creativity and rest the mind.  It’s certainly interesting.

Keep in mind; we’re not suggesting that every company, organization, or government entity allow unfettered access to social media sites.  We recognize that many of the groups that we work with each day have significant and valid arguments to be made as to why they do not allow access from a workstation provided by their IT department; but most arguments are worthy of reexamination as new information becomes available and the growing trend in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will have significant consequences as well when it comes to the Social Media, or WILB (Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing), debates – a topic we’ll tackle in the next iteration of Health inSite.

To Our Health,

Ryan
Marketing

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