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Social Segregation: How to help your employees reclaim the work life divide

by Shirley Penney, Bright Blue Sky

Technology and people. Opposites coexisting (sometimes precariously) in the modern day work place.

Technology has invaded our lives like the grey squirrel’s introduction to Ireland – it spread fast and dominated, with irreversible consequences.

With the introduction of technology has come vast opportunity. We can work faster, better, from more locations. We can communicate more effectively, with more people and through a whole load more platforms.

There was a time, at the dawn of the smart phone era, when it was believed that new technologies would alleviate work related stress. Common belief was that the efficiencies provided would reduce ‘work’ time and result in a much improved work life balance.

The reality we now know, is somewhat different. Technology, and specifically the prevalence of social media, continues to blur the line between work and play, threatening to blot it out entirely.

I continuously coach employees struggling with anxiety caused, at least in part, by pressures associated with today’s 24/7 culture.

Here are the most common causes of stress and some practical steps organisations can take to promote the wellbeing of staff.

Making Connections

The fundamental basis on which social media exists and one of it’s greatest causes of anxiety. The minefield of who to follow, accept, request or reject.

Allowing professional colleagues to see your personal social media (I’m talking facebook, Instagram, Pinterest – the mediums through which you share your family photos, your milestones, your personality) provides them with a depth of knowledge unheard of 10 years ago. The information contained within personal social media can call into question your professional image or in some cases, be the catalyst for work place bullying.

I often hear from employees concerned that if they don’t accept a ‘friend request’ it will have a detrimental effect on their work relationships, and as a result, many accept invitations as a fait accompli.

My advice to managers and businesses, is to encourage offline interaction between team members, facilitate discussion and team building and provide a positive environment for true relationships to develop.

In some instances it may be necessary to consider a social media policy. Setting rules around work place friendships and what the organisation deems appropriate takes the pressure away from individual employees.

Business Page Management

2017 has seen increasing numbers of businesses turn to social media as a marketing tool. The management of which falls to employees. Ideally, employees return home each day, leaving work commitments at the office door. In reality personal social media accounts are often connected to organisational pages, resulting in constant customer interaction.

Employees feel pressure to respond to these communications 24/7 – eating into that all important ‘down-time’.

The best case scenario would be a company wide ‘turn off notifications policy’ where no business social media is to be accessed after COB.

But for many organisations this simply won’t work. A positive consumer experience isn’t limited to 9-5 and communications require responses. In this case, why not work on a rota system to ensure that no one person is constantly on call?

The Use of Personal Social Media during work hours

The flip side. Like a leech on the circulatory system of your organisation, personal social media usage during work hours can drain productivity levels. And detrimental side effects are not limited to the business. Lack of motivation, low self worth and general malaise can all be attributed to social media dependance.

So what to do? Enforce a ban? Crack down on social media use? We all know the reaction that would bring and it isn’t a big happy smile, a high five and a cup of coffee.

I would suggest motivating your employees. Provide challenging work opportunities and play on strengths and experiences. Provide deadlines and reward accomplishments.

With careful management, social media can be used as a hugely powerful marketing and communications tool, with benefits for both for organisations and employees. However, given that usage of networking sites looks only set to increase, employers must make a conscious effort to  maintain a clear work life divide.

I’ll be back soon with more tips on how to ensure a content, productive and efficient workforce. If you have any questions in the meantime please contact me on [email protected] to visit www.brightbluesky.co.uk