Facebook at work

Social networks are now a staple part of our day-to-day technology footprint, says Chas Moloney, Director, Ricoh UK. With the number of active Facebook users having surpassed 2 billion worldwide, and WhatsApp emerging as one of the prevailing forces in news consumption, the growth of social media usage shows no signs of stopping.

The average person now spends approx. 40 minutes per day on YouTube; 35 minutes on Facebook; 25 minutes on Snapchat; and, 15 minutes on Instagram – equating to more than five years over the course of a lifetime using some form of social media.

Despite these staggering statistics, the latest annual survey of internet habits from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) ranked social media usage as only the third most popular internet activity, with emailing and online shopping occupying the two top spots.

Our own research however, conducted with 2,000 office workers in UK and Irish businesses highlighted the importance of social media for increasing workplace collaboration amongst employees. The report, entitled – Digital Dexterity: Denied – revealed some truly startling findings about social media in the workplace, notably how 46 per cent of respondents revealed that there was a ban on Facebook in their office, closely followed by Twitter (34 per cent) and Instagram (31 per cent).

With business’ ability to survive and thrive in an increasingly complex world of digital disruption presenting colossal challenges to both business, and their employees, digital dexterity must be a major priority. The future of work will rely upon the sharing of ideas, innovation, and skills.

The fourth industrial revolution has been characterised by the Silicon Valley philosophy that nothing more than a laptop, an idea, and motivation can be responsible for establishing the next world-changing startup. Technology has allowed us to reclaim our cities and each individual’s stake in society.

The changing face of the workforce is no different in this respect. Social media has enabled generation X to bring a fresh approach to work, allowing new-starters to embed themselves seamlessly into workplace operations.

The gap in ‘appearance vs. reality’ surrounding the implementation of social media however, was particularly stark in our research. Almost 40 per cent of respondents said they would be willing to move to a company that offer better digital skills. Undoubtedly, digital dexterity is on the agenda front and centre for employees in 2017, in the context of their wider career decisions. UK businesses clearly have a significant amount of work to do to provide employees with the appropriate skills and tools to thrive in the digital age.

Instilling a true culture of innovation, however, can only be achieved by emphasising the need for digital dexterity to exist in all aspects of the workforce of the 21st century. As technology has filtered its way into functions across business – from sales to HR, and customer engagement to finance – outlawing such innovations could not only damage working relationships in the office, but also impede wholesale efforts to digitise.

As the digital dynamics of tomorrow’s economy continue to fluctuate, the workforce of the future must be versatile enough to adapt. Taking a strategic approach to technology is possible but businesses need to ensure that they are integrating it effectively, with employees at the heart of the approach.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of workers surveyed in our poll said that they have no confidence in their employer’s current use of technology. With social tools like Facebook, increasingly gathering pace for commercial use, those businesses who have placed blanket bans on social media in the workplace are simply missing out.

Companies must desist from turning their backs on collaboration, and think about the best ways that they can deploy technology to unite their workforce. Today’s employees – and customers – expect things to be done faster than ever before, with loyalty and trust are as much dependent on having the right technology as the right business model. Fundamentally, a people-centric approach is the be-all and end-all for driving growth, new revenue and greater innovation.

Only when we dispel the myth that social media is nothing but a productivity drain and start to place trust in our staff to get their jobs done effectively – with the most cutting-edge technology at their fingertips – can British businesses shape the true future of work.