No-Social-Media Policies Don’t Work, As Anyone Who Works Under One Will Tell You

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Photo: F. und T. Werner/Getty Images

It’s easy to understand why employers enact blanket bans on social media at the workplace: You don’t want your employees spending their days in the bowels of Reddit and Tumblr as a way to avoid doing work. (This, for the record, is my actual job.) As it turns out, those rules might not be making that much of a difference.

According to a new study on social media, from the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of people at offices without rules about social-media use said they use social media as a respite from work; that number only drops to 30 percent in offices where using social is banned. A 10-percent drop is significant, but consider how much time that still represents. (For clarity, of the people Pew surveyed, there was a 51 percent to 45 percent split between offices with no rules as compared to offices with.)

When it came to using the internet to connect with friends or family throughout the day, the gap widened slightly, but still not by much. Only 20 percent of people in rules offices said they engaged in this activity, while that number bumped to 35 percent for people at more lax offices. And there was a 9-percent gap (16 percent to 25 percent) between those groups regarding using the web to answer work-related questions.

Most interesting is that while you might expect the results from workers where social media is tolerated to be significantly higher, on the whole, they are still fairly close to the numbers from the other group. Which means, bosses in offices restricting social use probably have less to worry about than they think in terms of productivity. It’s still a minority of people in the more-chill offices using social media during the workday. Even though they technically can, those offices don’t appear to be staffed by social zombies staring at their Facebook newsfeed all day. (Maybe because they understand, you know, they have to do work at their jobs?) Anyway, what we’re saying is, employers, let your employees eat cake and Instagram it, too. Your productivity probably won’t suffer. And also, you’ll have cake.