4 Reasons You’re Still Blocking Social Media and Why You Should Reconsider, Part 2

Social Media in Healthcare Series, Part 2 of 4. (Read Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4.)

2.) Social media will impact employee productivity. Next to patient privacy concerns, social media’s effect on workplace productivity is another widely debated topic.

Will access to Facebook entice employees to neglect patient care? Will they watch “viral” videos all day on YouTube? Will they miss a deadline because they’re too busy tweeting?

Maybe, but while these concerns are certainly valid, they may not be the real issue. If an employee is unproductive they don’t need social media to achieve that. My point is that we all know there are plenty of other ways to waste time on the Internet so why single out social media?

If an employee is neglecting patient care, frequently engaging in non-work related activities and missing deadlines, it’s probably a work ethic issue that should be addressed by their supervisor. It may not be the website’s fault.

Workplace productivity is not a new issue. Before the dawn of social media, we had smoke breaks, water coolers, office chit-chat and the Internet itself to distract us. Why do employees have access to their personal email, retail shopping sites and movie streaming sites, but not Facebook? I’ve even heard some health care workers complain about being blocked from social media because they can’t access educational information and tools shared by their peers that may help them deliver better patient care.

In fact, even if you are blocking social media from desktops, you can’t block it from employees’ personal smartphones. According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet Project,  35 percent of American adults own a smartphone. The report also found that  “some 87% of smartphone owners access the Internet or email on their handheld, including two-thirds (68%) who do so on a typical day.”

These numbers will likely increase as smartphones become more affordable and younger employees enter the workforce. The study also points out that those under the age of 45 have a high level of smartphone adoption.

In fact, one of the biggest reasons I advocate for employee access to social media in the workplace is to accommodate the new workforce.

A recent study by American Express that was highlighted on Shel Holtz’s blog, Stopblocking.org, found that 39 percent of millennial employees (in any industry, not just health care) may leave an organization that blocks social media.

The fact that an employee values this medium so much they would choose where to work based on their access to it speaks volumes. Social media is the way they communicate and some see blocking it as the equivalent of blocking the phone. It sends a message of distrust. If you’re not familiar with the characteristics of the millennial generation, you may want to brush up because they will be staffing your organization soon if they’re not already.

The bottom line is if you’re worried that employee access to social media might cripple your organization’s productivity, simply blocking it may not be the answer and it may actually do more harm in the long run.

Does your organization already have Internet usage policies in place or have you addressed proper use of social media in the workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ashley Howland is the social media manager for Baylor Health Care System, a network of 300 health care access points including acute care hospitals, surgery centers and clinics in Dallas, TX. She has been a member of the Marketing/Public Relations department for seven years with a strong background in media relations. In 2009, she built a robust social media program from the ground up and now oversees the strategy and content for Baylor’s primary social media networks. Additionally, she serves as the organization’s online spokesperson and as the editor of Baylor’s “Sammons Says” blog covering cancer prevention, treatment and research. This year, she helped lead an internal cross-departmental effort to unblock access to social media websites within her organization.

Part 1. Social media poses a risk to patient privacy

Part 2. Social media will impact employee productivity.

Part 3. Social media isn’t going away.

Part 4. Social media is too risky and will result in a lawsuit.



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Chad Johnson is managing editor of HL7Standards.com and senior marketing manager at Corepoint Health. He has worked in healthcare-related fields for more than 15 years, including working directly with physicians, nurses, radiologic technologists and health IT professionals.