Blog post originally appeared on The Ulum Group’s blog.
You dart from Facebook to Twitter, posting the details of a client’s upcoming event. Before moving on to your next task, you take a second to peruse your friends’ status updates. Seconds turn into minutes, and suddenly you’re reading Chelsea Handler’s blog and latest celebrity Who’s Who. From to-do list to gossip columns, your productivity may be on the line.
Since the inception of Facebook and Twitter, PR has reached new heights – facilitating ongoing conversation and building relationships with media and customers – all with the click of a mouse and 140 characters. It comes as no surprise that communication is evolving. Equally obvious is the fact that as PR practitioners, we adapt to ever-changing communication platforms.
Some critics, however, argue whether social networks enhance or impair productivity on the job, claiming employees’ focus and overall output are dampened by communication’s evolution. Others, specifically those in the PR industry, may beg to differ since, social networking is one of the greatest tools we have.
A study by Robert Half Technology surveyed chief information officers from companies with 100 or more employees. Its findings indicate that 54 percent of U.S. businesses block access to social networking sites, and only 19 percent permit use “for business purposes.”
In February, Wired magazine published an article examining two studies, one that found Facebook sucks up 1.5 percent of total work productivity, and another that estimated social networking on the job costs British companies a whopping $2.2 billion a year.
Other authorities argue that taking five-minute breaks to do something you are interested in or that is stimulating can improve your overall productivity throughout the day.
“Studies that accuse social networks of reducing productivity assume that time spent microblogging is time strictly wasted,” wrote Brendan Koerner in the Wired article. “Humans weren’t designed to maintain a constant focus on assigned tasks. We need periodic breaks to relieve our conscious minds of the pressure to perform.”
Brian Solis, PR guru and author of popular book, Engage!, points out that there has been and always will be distractions in the workplace. Before social networks, cell phones, the water cooler and e-mail drew employees’ attention away from work and toward communication. In other words, distraction, or lack of productivity, is nothing new. More important, it’s how you deal with distraction.
So, while you skim through today’s tweets, updates and blogs, be sure to set a time limit, ensuring that you will come back to work both refreshed and focused. Everything is good in moderation, especially if it helps improve your overall productivity down the line. After you’re in the know about Mr. Timberlake’s love life, get back to work!