Workers Use Social Media but Uneasy About Potential Consequences

About one-third of us think it’s OK to use social media at work. The rest of us? Not so much, a survey says.

The dominant social media networks—Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn—have grown so popular that about 30% of workers globally now think it’s acceptable to use them at work. But the ability of this medium to blur professional and personal lines is also giving a rising number of workers “serious reservations” about the overlap, according to Kelly Services, the Michigan outsourcing and consulting company.

More than four in ten (43%) agree that social media impacts adversely on productivity, creating concern mostly among older generations and those in the Americas. Nearly half the workers (47%) also expressed worry that mixing personal and professional connections through social media could lead to problems in the workplace.

Participants reveal the key workplace challenges emerging as a result of the growth of social media to be Internet forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and hundreds of niche sites that allow group conversation. Geographic location and age also affect the ways in which social media is adopted as part of workplace culture. While globally, many employees feel it is acceptable to use it for personal use at work, in the Americas only 16% believe this.

About one-third of Generation Y (36%) feels social media for personal use at work is acceptable, but this slips to 30% among Gen X and 19% among Baby Boomers. More employees with professional/technical skills feel it is all right to use social media for personal use at work (35%) compared with those who lack professional and technical skills (24%).

The results also show:

  • Almost one-quarter (24%) feel it is acceptable to share opinions about work with friends and colleagues on social media, though only 17% of workers in the Americas believe this;
  • Twelve percent of respondents have been told to stop using social media at work, though in the Americas as few as 6% have been told to stop; and
  • More than one-quarter (30%) are more inclined to job hunt using social media than by traditional methods.

The findings are part of the latest annual survey by Kelly of nearly 170,000 people across all generations in 30 countries.

Complete findings are published in a report, “When Two Worlds Collide: The Rise of Social Media in the Workplace,” available here.