Social media in no way represents the downfall of society. It’s the misuse, overuse, and lack of balance between virtual and face-to-face communications that leads to issues. These tools are filled with contradictions. Social media can actually be utilized in a way that reduces the stress that comes along with being a busy professional. At the same time, when used inappropriately it just compounds stress. Based on the latest research, here is quick primer for the do’s and don’ts of relying on social media to manage time, productivity, and of course stress:
- Take a time out. When you can’t get away from the office, it’s still important to take a few minutes daily for a mental break. Browsing Facebook for five minutes, watching a funny, yet work appropriate YouTube video, or reading through a few tweets can let you temporarily escape and give your brain a rest. If it’s kept to a minimum and practiced during times when you absolutely can’t sneak out for a quick walk or brief lunch meeting, stepping away from a project has its benefits. Author and Principal of Marketing Research & Education for ExactTarget, Kyle Lacy, cited a study that found employees are 10% more productive when they are allowed to use social media during the workday.
- Use social media to find work-related answers. Google only gets you so far. Wading through results causes stress and reduces productivity. Some questions are actually answered best through social media. Receiving an answer from a human or trusted source is more efficient. Ask a tech savvy friend on LinkedIn for some help or pose a question to Twitter followers.
- Conduct some networking via social media. Meeting face-to-face isn’t always a reality. Making connections through LinkedIn and other platforms, is a way to gain professional advice, sales, leads, industry awareness, and more. When used judiciously, virtual networking takes the stress out of drumming up new business, connecting with people across the globe, and ultimately increases productivity.
- Boost teamwork through social media. Computer World UK, reported that private social networking tools and wikis are an excellent way for groups from different locations to work on projects together in a way that can be more efficient than telephone calls and e-mails. People are held accountable for their part, the stress of keeping track of progress is eliminated, as it is all there in real-time, and it creates cohesiveness in the workplace. That collective sense of achievement, improved morale, and commitment equals productivity and happier employees.
- Overdo it on social media breaks. Getting sucked into social media and becoming addicted to staying connected reduces productivity, increases stress, and even carries over into home life. Again, it’s a balancing act. Once you cross a certain line, using social media goes from productive to distracting. Eventually, the time spent online leads to missed deadlines and an overflowing to-do list.
- Rely on social media as your predominate means of communication. Professionals who are cooped up at a desk and don’t have the opportunity to get up to speak to co-workers, attend face-to-face meetings, meet with prospective clients, or even talk on the phone, develop a sense of being disconnected from the world and their workplace. How can a career be fulfilling when you don’t have any true interpersonal communication? How can your sense of community and commitment develop if goals are never discussed in person?
- Get bogged down by information overload. In a paper published in Information, Communication & Society, researchers note that professionals can be mentally overwhelmed by an oversupply of information. With information being filtered in verbally, through e-mail, and through social media platforms, the ability to keep up can be stressful. Oftentimes experts recommend designating certain times to visit social media profiles and check e-mails. This can lessen distractions and maintain your peace of mind.
- Let social media blur the lines between work and private life. The Neumann Business Review published research that found employees face the risk of experiencing, “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” from being connected 24/7. Employers and co-workers can send work requests and information via social networks and e-mail, infringing upon a professional’s personal time. Unplugging is becoming less common. In addition, when bosses and employees become “friends” on social networks, both feel censored and as if their professional image must be upheld at all times.
The pros and cons of social media use in the workplace is an ongoing debate. Research suggests that using social media responsibly is the ideal way for busy professionals to maintain productivity and keep stress levels at a minimum.
What are your thoughts concerning social media and stress?