Social Media and Time Management: Boogeyman or Symptom?


Anyone who has struggled with time management or procrastination knows the definitions of these terms all too well.  They bring to mind incidences of felt laziness, guilt, inadequacy, anxiety or just the failure to get things done.  Removed from all of the emotional negativity, procrastination refers more simply to the avoidance of things that need to be accomplished. Conversely, time management is the effective use of resources to achieve tasks in a reasonable time-frame.

In today’s workplace, the use of the internet and technology are essential to success in every arena.  Companies are quick to extol the virtues of technology, but also quick to criticize the ways in which it may detract from a solid workday.  In particular, social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, are well-known tools for poor employee productivity.

Yet employees still found ways to avoid work long before the first tweet or status update, so it seems more likely that social media is simply the latest strategy, rather than the primary reason, for doing so (unless an employee has an addiction to social media, which is a different phenomenon altogether).  Here are a few reasons people may use social media to avoid work or fail to manage time effectively:

  • Personal Meaning – Employees may struggle with getting things accomplished if they’re not relevant or personally meaningful.
  • Someone Else’s Goals – Related, if a project has been imposed or assigned to employees without soliciting their buy-in, and therefore their interest, they may not see it through all the way.
  • Performance Anxiety/ Perfectionism - If employers have unachievable standards, employees may spend too much time on tasks. In a workplace where excessive value is placed on approval from coworker’s, it can create distracting anxiety.
  • Uncertainty - If employees have little or no direction on a project or the rules of engagement are ambiguous, it may be difficult to make headway.
  • Fear of the Unknown – Employees may lack a good feedback system, and thus have no way of knowing how well they’re doing.  That realization may inhibit their desire and ability to start altogether.
  • Above their Pay-grade – Employees may genuinely lack the necessary training, skills, or ability to complete tasks, and thus avoid them.

These are as much management issues as they are employee issues.  While it may behoove companies to adapt particular cut-and-dry policies about appropriate use of social media at work, it may be infinitely more profitable for them to address the underlying issues. 

Employers should ensure that work is presented to employees in a meaningful and direct way related not only to company aims, but also to employee goals for growth. This must be reinforced by sound hiring practices and retention strategies aimed at properly equipping employees.

Social media isn’t the boogeyman it’s made out to be, but it is a particularly appealing method for avoiding work.  If your company is struggling with employee productivity because of it, take it as a cue to examine all of the above, rather than just cracking down on internet use.  



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