Social Media Use at Work (Study)

Why do most people use social media at work? The most popular answer (34 percent) was to take a mental break, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.

Why do most people use social media at work? The most popular answer (34 percent) was to take a mental break, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.

Mental breaks were followed by:

  • Connecting with friends and family, 27 percent.
  • Making or supporting professional connections, 24 percent.
  • Getting information that helps solve problems at work, 20 percent.
  • Building or strengthening personal relationships with co-workers: 17 percent.
  • Learning about someone they work with: 17 percent.
  • Asking work-related questions of people outside of their organization: 12 percent.
  • Asking work-related questions of people inside their organization: 12 percent.

The survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults also found that:

  • 51 percent of respondents said their workplaces have rules about using social media at work, and 32 percent said their employers have policies about how they may present themselves on the internet, but 77 percent use social media at work regardless of company policy.
  • 29 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 have discovered information that lowered their professional opinion of a colleague, compared with 16 percent of respondents aged 3 through 49 and 6 percent of those aged 50 through 64.
  • 17 percent of respondents said they “hardly ever” use the internet on a typical day for work-related tasks, and 25 percent said they “never” do so.
  • 56 percent of respondents who use social media platforms for work-related purposes believe that it helps their job performance, while 22 percent believe it hurts their job performance, 16 percent saw no impact and 4 percent said they saw both benefits and drawbacks.
  • 78 percent of respondents who use social media platforms for work-related purposes said it is useful for networking or finding new job opportunities, while 71 percent said it is useful for staying in touch with others in their field, 56 percent for connecting with experts, 51 percent for getting to know their co-workers on a personal basis and 46 percent for finding information they need to do their job.
  • Facebook was the most-used social network for work-related purposes, at 19 percent, followed by LinkedIn (14 percent), social media tools provided by employers (9 percent), other (5 percent) and Twitter (3 percent).
  • 56 percent of respondents who use social media platforms for work-related purposes agreed that it distracts from the work they need to do, with 30 percent agreeing strongly and 42 percent disagreeing.
  • 54 percent agree that social media helps them recharge at work, while 51 percent said it lets them see too much information about their co-workers.

Pew Research Center research associate Kenneth Olmstead, an author of the report, said in a release announcing its findings:

These data show that the rise of social media has added a new layer of job-related activity for many workers, as well as new opportunities to “escape” the job when they want to take a break. Social networking platforms provide workers new ways to learn job-related skills and new ways for them to socialize even when they are on the job. In effect, social media has made the once solid boundary between work and leisure a lot more permeable.

Another author, University of Michigan School of Information Prof. Nicole B. Ellison, added:

These findings also highlight some of the challenges faced by organizations and workers as we move into an era where social media is increasingly integrated into our daily communication practices inside and outside of the workplace. For instance, how can we use social media to learn more about our colleagues as individuals and friends, yet retain control over aspects of our personal lives that we would prefer to keep private?

Readers: What did you think of Pew’s findings?

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