Workforce Burnout: Is Social Media a Help or a Hindrance?

Conceptual image of a young man with an electrical socket on the back of his neck with the power plug disconnected.
Conceptual image of a young man with an electrical socket on the back of his neck with the power plug disconnected.

As technology continues to shape our world, every aspect of our lives is affected -- including our work. While employers are trying to figure out how to manage their employees' time and our messages online, employees are challenged to be tech savvy and productive, but not be seen as a social media junkie.

Recently I was on The Linkedin Lady radio show where we discussed how many employers are encouraging their employees to be "available" at all times including responding to emails immediately and utilizing social media for business purposes. On the flipside, however, they also tend to discourage employees from being on Facebook, Pinterest, and other sites for personal use during "working hours" because senior management feels that these sites are distracting and counterproductive.

A recent report by Evolv involving over 21,000 employees explored workforce performance and social media among hourly workers. Surprisingly the study found those employees who actively use social media on a weekly basis stay longer with their companies than those who do not. This seems to indicate that companies that understand and respect one's time even if it does not fit neatly into a 9 to 5 time frame are able to retain their employees with more success.

What happens though when companies want their employees to be so plugged in that the employees are stressed and can't feel "they can get away from their work?" My suggestion is to determine what the crystal balls are in your life and which ones are tennis balls. To be more specific, when a crystal ball falls to the ground and it shatters, it cannot be put back together. A tennis ball, on the other hand, can bounce around and roll under something only to be retrieved later.

To start, take stock of all facets of your life including significant other, family, friends, home, social and charitable activities, health, and "me" time. Once some thought has been given to these areas, it is necessary to start to tag which ones fall into the crystal ball category. These are the ones that will not be able to be recaptured and will bring good memories to you for years to come. I have even suggested to a client to tape pictures of a crystal ball and a tennis ball on her cell phone and her home computer so when she is tempted to respond to a work inquiry she has to ask herself if it can wait.

Another idea is to have two cell phones: one to which everyone has the number and can be answered only during certain hours and a second to which only a select group of people have the number (like key family members and friends) and will be on all the time. This also works for social media too because the second phone can be limited to certain sites and emails.

The bottom line in regards to all of that one needs to set boundaries. With the economy is still sputtering, that idea may be very hard for many people to do. It does not help that a lot of us were raised to respond in a timely fashion to inquiries but aren't our health and well-being more important? Wouldn't it be more beneficial for companies to institute "blackout" periods when employees know they are not bound to respond so that they are well rested and less stressed to deal with the issues with a clear head? Stressed spelled backwards is desserts but companies cannot have their cake and eat it too without facing high turnover and low employee morale.