Question: Are your employees going to stop checking their social media feeds anytime soon?
Question: What can you do about it?
Answer: A few things.
Question: Is this a new problem?
Answer: Yes and no.
Employees being distracted at work has been going on since they put in a water cooler in the breakroom. And since going on cigarette breaks were routine. And even when the first access to the internet allowed them to go “surfing” from the comfort of their office chair.
Social Media Distraction isn’t a new problem but rather an old problem expressed in a new way. That problem is time spent not working while at work. The Social Media Distraction issue continues to grow to an even higher and higher level of disruption of productivity in the workplace as more and more social media channels are created that compete increasingly for the attention of your employees while they’re at work and on the clock.
Distractions like this used to be a little more controllable at work because you could limit the distraction of “surfing” websites they could visit on your computers and laptops. You could even install software tracking on the computers to know where their eyeballs were wandering off to and for how long. There are plenty of software solutions available on the market to monitor what employees are spending their screen time doing.
That ship has sailed though as the use of their own mobile phones has overtaken anything you can do to control access through the technology you provide them. And the proliferation of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn–just to name some of the more popular channels–is making it harder and harder for your staff to not get distracted by it all.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Focus on their production vs. the time they spend on things. They’re going to check their Facebook feed or news feeds, so know that it’ll happen. The thing you’ve got to be focused on is how they get access and if they are performing the job they’re supposed to be doing in the time allotted for it.
- If they’re saying they’re overloaded and can’t get things done (and done on time), make them fill out a Time Tracking Sheet to help you and them find out where their day is going.
- Encourage them to check their social media streams but only before work, during breaks, during meals, and after work and spell this policy out in your documented operating manuals for the position they hold or in a blanket way in your Employer-Employee Manual that they sign off on.
- Yes, limit or prohibit access to social media on your provided technology whether it’s desktops, laptops, tablets or cell phones. If you provide the technology, you can determine what is and isn’t allowed access on those devices.
- You can ban the use of private cell phones at work except for the break times. This can be tricky though in that many need their phones to be lifelines to kids, aging parents, or both for those stuck in the sandwich generation.
By the way, this problem isn’t just an age thing. It’s easy for some to think this is a millennial problem. But there are plenty of seniors at work who love to check their connections to see what their grandchildren are up to every minute of every day.
All of it is addictive and the addiction is growing across all age and genders.
What I advise clients is to focus on documenting when the staff can check their social media channels and to focus more on their employees knowing what they must get done and by when. So, if they want to be tempted to spend time distracted by getting updated on what’s going on in their social world, they know they still must get their work done on time and done right.
I’m also am a strong believer that where you sit in your office is dictated by the Org Chart, and that means managers of these various departments are in visual contact with those they supervise. This isn’t meant to be a “Big Brother” spy thing, but rather the realization that Leadership by Visual Accountability helps staff be and stay more productive. It even helps address that some of your worst offenders of Social Media Distraction are your management team themselves! Visual accountability cuts both ways.
Even if you do or don’t have visual accountability by where management sits vs. where those they manage sit, the need for “Leadership to be Walking Around” is vital. It’s again not to spy but rather to observe and build bonds and work together as a team. This may mean reigning in those who are failing to hit objective benchmarks at work and that Social Media Time is robbing them of hitting those goals.
What do you do if they still fail to comply?
You need to engage the four Steps of Corrective Action:
- First, have an informal discussion and making the offender read aloud the Social Media policy during work hours.
- Second, have a formal write up.
- Third, have them go home on suspension and think about if they want to have a career with you or not.
- Fourth, a dismissal.
A reminder: the hope is that each step is a chance to get them to correct their behavior so they can remain effectively in your employment.