Access to social media is costing employers an estimated $650 billion a year. Blocking sites, installing expensive network monitoring software, and micromanaging employees doesn’t work. What is the solution?

Image

The NY Post case-studied our company’s approach of harnessing social media energy through internal social media platforms that benefit the employer and foster a more engaged workforce:

A Miami-based e-commerce company, 1saleaday.com, got fed up with its workers wasting away precious minutes on social media …

After worker morale plummeted, management decided to introduce a social network just for employees, a ... [Facebook] ... clone called Yammer, and found that productivity and mood improved.

“Instead of trying to suppress their addiction, we tried to channel it,” said Eli Federman, a spokesman for 1saleaday. “It actually increased productivity by creating an environment where people collaborate on various projects using the site.”

In 2012, Americans spent 74.0 billion minutes, or 20% of their time, on social media sites. Much of that time was expended during work hours. Social networking has become part of life both on and off the company clock. In an attempt to bring employee attention back to the work place, 42% of employers have opted to ban social networking all together. Unfortunately, attempts at banning have failed because most employees just use their mobile devices to access social networks. Research also shows that banning social media kills morale.

Even if banning worked, is banning social networking really the answer? What are the real reasons employees seek a break from their work? Boredom? Lack of challenge? No incentive to work harder? Dissatisfaction with their career?

Of all the reasons employees abandon their work, wasting hours on social media, the most fundamental is the need to interact with others. The reality is that employees feel the need to socialize—and will do so whether it’s around the water cooler or online.

Employers who acknowledge the need for social interaction in the workplace should offer internal social media platforms, sometimes called enterprise social networks, to channel the need for social activity. An enterprise social network is an exclusive network only accessible to the business and its internal users (e.g., anyone with an @acme.com email address). An enterprise social network meets company and employee needs to be engaged. Users can share thoughts, photos, updates, and more without leaving the work environment.

This  internal solution will increase workplace productivity by channeling that otherwise wasted energy back into the company's private social media forum. Employees in need of a "mental break" can remain connected to the company culture by engaging with their co-workers instead of frolicking outside the work context. Camaraderie and collaboration flourish in an environment where employees are interested in the discussions and can contribute. Intercompany engagement and productivity increases.

The author thanks Anais Sori for her assistance on this article.