Using social media at work can prevent burnout
It’s a rare person who doesn’t check their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account while they are at work. And while bosses all over the world may be grumpy their employees are using personal social media accounts at work, research indicates it may actually be good for us, suggesting the days of concealing our scrolling, posting and liking may be coming to an end.
A recent study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, conducted by Dr Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol, investigated the impact of intensity social media use at work has on emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and lack of personal accomplishment. The findings suggested that using social media during work could help lower burnout in employees who have high levels of mindfulness.
“Originally, the motivation for this research came from [considering] the issue of whether companies should allow or ban employees from social media access in the workplace,” says Charoensukmongkol.
“On the positive side, using social media during work can help employees relax from the stress they experience from work.” But, says Charoensukmongkol, many organisations believe that using social media during work can be counterproductive because it causes distraction. This in turn affects our ability to focus on work and can result in feelings of stress and pessimism.
Mindful, not mindless, scrolling
Rather than thinking of social media in the binary terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, Charoensukmongkol wanted to look at the personal characteristics of employees using social media.
“Given the benefits of mindfulness that enhance awareness and behavioural regulations, I believed that if people are mindful when they use social media, it might help them effectively regulate social media behaviours and to avoid negative consequences that might follow when they are not aware of their activities in social media,” he says.
Charoensukmongkol’s findings were significant. He discovered that using social media at work can help lower burnout for those who are mindful, but using social media during work tends to increase burnout in employees who have a low level of mindfulness.
The explanation for the results is clear, says Charoensukmongkol.
“Given that mindful individuals tend to be aware of activities they are doing, it is less likely they will get carried away by social media,” he says. So although they enjoy the social media experience, mindful people are not attached to it. They also tend to only use social media to the level that makes them relax so that they can be productive at work. “For this reason, their social media use at work can lower burnout,” says Charoensukmongkol.
“Conversely for those who lack mindfulness, when they are not aware of what they are doing, they are more likely to get carried away when they use social media during work,” he says. “This behaviour can negatively affect their work and lead to stress and burnout as a result.”
But there’s a (legal) catch
Trent Hancock, a Senior Associate at employment law firm McDonald Murholme says we should be aware that excessive use of personal social media accounts during work time could be considered as misconduct and can result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.
“During business hours an employee is required to devote their attention to their work,” Hancock says. “Any excessive use of social media accounts that interferes with the employee’s obligation to perform their work can give rise to disciplinary action.”
Hancock says employees should be aware that employers may have the ability to monitor individuals’ Internet access on company devices and may rely upon the excessive use of personal social media during work time to justify disciplinary action. “Employees should also be mindful not to post anything on social media that is critical of their employer, regardless as to whether it is posted during work hours or outside of work hours,” he adds.
Tips for using social media mindfully at work
- Do you really need to get alerted every time someone likes or comments on one of your posts? As hard as it may be, turn off all your notifications during work time.
- Before you check your social media accounts, think about your expectations and intentions – are you hoping to connect with people? To see if others have liked what you have recently posted? Will you reply to people’s messages or comments? Be clear on why you are logging on.
- Schedule in social media breaks during your workday.
- Set a timer when you logon to your personal social media at work – no more than 10 minutes – and once it goes off get back to work.
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