By Daniel Hunter

While some companies perceive social media tools in the workplace as a distraction, 37 percent of information workers in Europe say that using social tools actually increases productivity and efficiency, according to a survey commissioned by Microsoft Corp.

This compares to 46 percent of global workers who agreed social tools can boost productivity. The results of the survey indicate that social tools are useful for getting work done.

“Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now are increasingly bringing their own services as well,” said Charlene Li, founder and analyst at Altimeter Group, a firm that studies social media and other technology trends.

“Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected, but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives. Enterprise social represents a new way to work, and organisations who are embracing these tools are improving collaboration, speeding customer responses and creating competitive advantage.”

The global survey sponsored by Microsoft asked 9,908 people in 32 countries, including 4,787 in Europe, about their use of social tools. Half of European employees use social tools to help them communicate with colleagues, and 18 percent would be willing to spend their own money on social tools to drive further company efficiencies and communications with colleagues if their employers supported it.

However, some employees are facing challenges, as their companies are hesitant to implement social tools. Of the survey respondents, 27 percent believe they could do their jobs better if their management was more supportive of the use of social tools, and another 27 percent believe their management underestimates the value of social tools. The top perceived barriers European employees cited were security (65 percent) and a fear of productivity loss (58 percent) in their organisations.

In the UK, organisations have some work to do in order to catch up to the expectations of their employees when it comes to the use of social tools. Half the UK employees surveyed said people do not collaborate enough in their organisation, compared with the global average of 40 percent. Yet less than a quarter (24 percent) of UK employees think their company understands the value of providing social tools in order to improve employee collaboration; paling in comparison the global average of 38 percent.

“We are certainly headed in the right direction, with more employees in the UK using social tools in their work, but there is still more that UK business managers can do to help their employees embrace these tools in order to maximise the benefits of social,” said Nick Matthews, Principal Customer Success Manager, Yammer.

“The appetite for greater collaboration and the use of social tools is clear amongst UK employees, and it is up to management to ensure they give their employees the necessary access to these tools in order to help them work better and increase productivity.”

The survey also indicates that UK employees are more likely to unilaterally adopt technology that makes their job easier, with only 38 percent relying on their organisation’s IT department to introduce these technologies, compared to the global average of 52 percent.

“Organisations cite security concerns as the main barrier to the use of social tools; however, what the survey shows is that if employees find technology that helps them do their job better, they will use it whether or not the IT department introduced it to the organisation," added Nick Matthews.

"We are seeing a fundamental shift in the way we work and communicate, and this survey is evidence that employees are increasingly turning to social, despite the technology being relatively new to the workplace.”