Study: Social Media Both Helps and Hurts the Workplace

June 23, 2016

3:54 pm

Social media has impacted almost every facet of our daily lives. From getting our news and current events to improving mental health and interacting almost instantly with others, no matter the distance – social media has an important impact on how we view communication and daily interactions.

But when it comes to the workplace, how can social media help and hurt the interactions and expectations of the workplace? According to a study by Pew Research Center, social media can encourage both positive and unproductive behaviors that could impact how employees interact and produce their work.

The study examined the social media behaviors and habits of 2,003 American adults (including 795 who are currently employed on a full- or part-time basis), conducted between Sept. 11-14 and 18-21 of 2014. It turns out that social media isn't just used for winding down and taking “mental breaks” (though that was a popular reason). The social media habits of employees were more surprising than anticipated.

H/T Pew Research Center.

Social Media Habits of America's Employees

As written in the study:

“Today’s workers incorporate social media into a wide range of activities while on the job. Some of these activities are explicitly professional or job-related, while others are more personal in nature. The survey asked Americans who are employed full- or part-time about eight different ways they might use social media while on the job…”

Taking mental breaks was found to be the most popular reason to use social media, with 34 percent of employees admitting to using it for this purpose. 27 percent of employees used it primarily to “connect with friends and family while at work”, and 24 percent “to make or support professional connections”.

Other notable reasons to utilize social media in the workplace included: getting information to resolve work-related issues; build, strengthen, or learn more about coworkers on a personal level; and to ask questions regarding people both inside and outside their organization.

There were also information that showed the disparity between older and younger employees. As the study writes:

“Younger workers are more likely than their older counterparts to say they have discovered information about a colleague on social media that lowered their professional opinion of them – but also are more likely than older workers to have found information that improved their professional opinion of a colleague. Some 23 percent of workers ages 18 to 29 report that they have discovered information on social media that improved their professional opinion of a colleague. By comparison, just 12 percent of workers ages 30 to 49 and 9 percent of workers ages 50 to 64 have experienced this.”

Interestingly, a majority of employees included in the study stated that their workplaces have specific rules about how social media should be used or conducted during office hours. But even with that, the expectations and use of social media amongst employees often seemed to contradict each other.

Social media can be an incredible tool for individuals to build their connections to others, whether personal or professional. However, with information like that shared in the Pew Research Center study, we still have quite a bit to go when it comes to learning how to effectively use the power of social media in the workplace.

Image via Stocksnap.

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.