Commentary

Using Social Media To Improve Productivity

Does it surprise you that only 23% of men and 21% of women aged 18 to 70 believe that social media decreases their productivity at work? Not really? Okay, how about this: 37% of both genders across all those ages believe using social media actually improves productivity. The rest see “little to no impact.”

Those are a few of the results of a just-released The Hartford Tech @Work survey of 1,000 people ages 18 to 70 who are employed full- or part-time, or are self-employed.

Social media tools have always been a part of the working lives of younger workers, who have come to reply on those tools, says Lindsey Pollak, an expert on Millennials who partnered with the Hartford to determine if certain assumptions we make about tech in the workplace — like social media being a “time suck” — are valid.

As a result, Millennials are the most upbeat about social media's usefulness, with 44% saying that it improves productivity — vs. GenXers (34%) and Boomers (28%). “I think Millennials just have a very different view of the utility of these kinds of networks,” says Pollak. As an example, “if they’re doing research on a topic for their job, rather than just Googling something, they will tap into their social networks,” she says.

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Writers look for examples and sources. Marketers do competitive analyses. Biz-dev folks reach out to potential clients. “If you think of the information capabilities of social media and not just the ‘social,’ it gives you a different perspective,” she posits.

While this is the first Tech @Work study, The Hartford has a longstanding interest in helping people get back to work after illness or injury, and for helping people with disabilities get their jobs done. It is a sponsor of U.S. Paralympics and athletes such as Brad Snyder, a blind U.S. Navy veteran and top swimmer.

“He uses so many cool technologies to do his job at a tech startup in the Baltimore area,” recalls Pollak, who spent time with Snyder in March. “Technology is essential for certain people who have a disability … and opens up a lot of jobs and careers.”

In answering broader questions about the impact of technology on their work lives, one in five respondents say they could only do their job for five minutes if they lost access to the Internet for an hour.

But even as technology saturates the workplace, 77% of Americans are confident their jobs will not be eliminated by tech in the next five years, with 64% feeling it cannot replace what they do. Meanwhile, 17% of Millennials believe the end is nigh, 72% say it’s not and 11% just “don’t know.” But younger Millennials are even more convinced than older Millennials — 23% vs. 14% — that bots will be replacing their bodies.

Use Social Media To Be ‘Less Replaceable’
Pollak is clearly one who accentuates the positive. “I think this is a reminder to everyone to use social media to do your jobs,” she says. “To think about the ways it might make you less replaceable; to make you more productive. For instance, [it can help with] critical thinking.”

It just so happens that there was a story with the headline “Employers Find ‘Soft Skills’ Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply” in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, the day we talked.

“It’s not just about collecting data; it’s about analyzing it. It’s not just knowing about how to use the Internet; it’s about knowing how to use it in an effective way. It’s about communicating effectively with people, through technology. It’s about processing what you find through technology. Those are human skills. Soft skills are becoming more important as technology grows. So it doesn’t mean that we should become robots. It’s just the opposite of robots. Being human in the way that we email or use social media is critically important.”

Pollak’s origins story as a Millennial workplace expert is a compelling follow-your-bliss story in itself. Suffice to repeat that after three months of eating frozen yogurt under the covers in her childhood bedroom about 15 years ago, a career coach suggested she could, indeed, become an active-listening, advice-dispensing “dorm RA” (resident assistant) forever if she put her mind to it.

Now let’s put all thoughts of #productivity aside for a few days and just be #social over the long weekend, shall we?

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