In a new Pew Research Center survey, American workers have some mixed feelings about how social media affects their workplace productivity.
Fifty-six percent of workers who use social media for work-related purposes said it distracts them from other work they need to do. But the same percentage said social media ultimately helps their job performance, and almost as many (54 percent) said a little social media time helps them recharge.
So what’s the sweet spot for social media and workplace productivity? How many Facebook or Twitter breaks can you take before your productivity suffers?
I talked about this topic for an article called “How often should you check Facebook at work?” for the Chicago Tribune’s Social Graces series. While this article is about Facebook specifically, the same advice can apply to any social network.
As I explain in the Tribune article, the answer to the question of how social media affects your workplace productivity depends on your job:
If you are responsible for your company’s social media presence, then switching over to your personal account occasionally probably won’t cost you much in terms of lost productivity.
But even if social media management isn’t your job, the time you spend on social media could still count as productive time if it benefits your work. For example, if you have a large following, your social media time could help boost your company.
Is Social Media Time a True Break?
If you use social media purely as a break at work, think about whether it’s really the best way to recharge. If your job involves a lot of reading and writing, then scrolling through your social media feeds or posting updates actually doesn’t give you much of a break, I point out in the Tribune article. On the other hand, if you do mostly physical work, taking a few minutes for social media can enhance your workplace productivity by offering you a nice change of pace.
When you do take a break for social media, make it a defined period — for example, five minutes every hour. Social media is detrimental to workplace productivity when you multitask by, say, keeping one eye on your Facebook alerts when you’re working on something else.
You can read more about how social media affects your workplace productivity in my article “Two Ways To Tell If Facebook Deserves Your Attention” and in Chapter 14 of my book “Personal Productivity Secrets.”