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Are social networks good for job productivity?

Pros of Social Networking at Work

If your boss catches you with Twitter on your screen, you just might have a good argument for your online gabbing. A number of studies have suggested that social networking is good for job productivity.

A study conducted by the University of Melbourne in Australia found that employees who surfed the Internet for personal reasons are 9 percent more productive than those who don't [source: Fahmy]. This study looked at 300 workers, 70 percent of whom used the Internet for personal browsing. Researchers found that personal Web browsing sharpened an employee's concentration. According to the study, by taking short breaks, your mind can rest a while, and when you return to the task at hand, your brain will be refreshed and renewed. However, the study only researched those who used these sites in moderation, or less than 20 percent of their total time at work. People with addictive Internet habits might be less productive.

Another study conducted by AT&T also found that the use of social networking tools increased efficiency. The company, which sells Internet connection services (a fact that reveals its stake in the matter), conducted an independent study that survey 2,500 employees in five European countries. Of the employees using social networking sites:

  • Sixty-five percent said social networking made their colleagues and themselves more efficient workers.
  • Forty-six percent found that it gave them more ideas and made them more creative.
  • Thirty-eight percent found that social networking helped them to gain knowledge and come up with solutions to problems.
  • Thirty-six percent reported that social networking allowed them to collect knowledge about employees and customers.
  • Thirty-two percent asserted that sites created team building opportunities.

Employees also reported that social networking has become part of the culture of their workplace [source: AT&T].

However, the study also found a few downsides to social networking in the workplace. Forty-nine percent of workers reported distraction as a downfall, while 45 percent worried about leaks of confidential information [source: AT&T].

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that those employees with the largest social networks were 7 percent more productive than colleagues with fewer Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Interestingly, in the same workplace, those employees who had more face-to-face interactions were 30 percent more productive [source: Hodgson].

Taking a cue from sites like Facebook, businesses are beginning to create internal company networking sites. Hundreds of companies, such as Saturn and Smart Car, use internal social networks. These sites work especially well for companies that are dispersed around the globe. They make it easier for employees to communicate and brainstorm with colleagues on the other side of the world. LinkedIn, a social network for professionals, launched Company Groups, a site in which a company can create a forum for all of its employees. About a thousand companies have already signed on for this service [source: USA Today].

For more information on social networking sites and their effect on humanity, visit the links on the next page.