You don’t need to be a scientist or medical expert to be familiar with the word “dopamine”.
Known to many as the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine is the thrill you get when you achieve something incredible at the office, beat your personal-best on the track, or win a round of “Bingo”. Importantly, dopamine isn’t just there to make you feel great. It’s a molecule that “rewards” the brain with pleasure whenever you do something important.
Dopamine is something that we seek out on a regular basis. And while up until now, dopamine boosts have often been linked to physical activity and exercise, there’s a new behaviour that can give you your fix too: social media.
According to a study into Australian consumers, social media is a powerful source of dopamine. Whenever someone likes, shares, or offers recognition to your Facebook posts, we feel a tingle of excitement. So, what exactly does this mean in an era where more companies, communication vendors, and UC experts are embracing social media as part of the workplace conversation?
Addictive Actions & The Rise of the Social Workplace
Social media isn’t just a personal activity – at least not anymore.
As UC&C applications like Microsoft Teams, Slack and Workplace by Facebook become a more popular way for professionals to collaborate and communicate in an omnichannel environment, likes and shares are spilling into the corporate world too.
Interestingly, the research into social media and dopamine levels shows that people don’t have to go through the process of clicking the “like” button to feel the rush that social media can bring. Even checking your phone can be enough to trigger the experience. This means that people could be spending more time looking for social media affirmations, and less time concentrating on the task at hand.
While social media does have a lot to offer the modern marketplace, today’s organisations are left wondering whether the positives of going social are worth the risks.
The Benefits of “Going Social”
First, let’s start by saying that there are some benefits to allowing staff to tap into social media at work. After all, those dopamine hits can really boost staff morale, and providing access to additional social channels can convince your team that you trust them too.
At the same time, social media is a fantastic way to build positive buzz for your business. There are countless KPIs out there that prove employee advocacy and word of mouth marketing can generate more respect for your company, and help to improve your reputation at the same time. After all, people like to build connections with their favourite brands today, and there’s no better place to do that than on social media.
There are also plenty of studies that show that social media can directly improve work performance. For instance:
- It can improve communication across your company, particularly with the right UC strategy. One study found that 17% of employees used social connections to foster better team relationships.
- It enhances work/life balance. Even the most dedicated employees need a break at times, and 34% of workers admit to using social media to refresh their minds in time for a new project.
- It can improve customer satisfaction. If your social media strategy involves responding to customer queries and getting involved with industry conversations, you could find that you end up with happier clients.
But social media isn’t “all good”.
Should UC Vendors Be Demonstrating Due Diligence?
Rather than simply implementing social media into every UC strategy just because it’s an option, some experts may argue that vendors should be demonstrating a duty of care to their customers by making features optional, rather than mandatory.
After all, just like any “addiction”, an obsession with social media can be incredibly dangerous – particularly in the workforce. The University of Maryland, in collaboration with non-profit groups, released a report that found 18% of social users can’t cope for more than a few hours without checking Facebook. In fact, 61% of users check their newsfeed every day. It’s estimated that most Americans spend up to 25% of their workday browsing social media.
At the same time, since the dopamine boost that social channels give us is just as addictive as alcohol, and certain drugs, some studies are starting to show that this addiction could have an impact on emotional and cognitive performance. One report from the royal public health society found that social media is linked to increased rates of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
The research into social media is mixed on whether these channels are good, or bad. For instance:
- One survey of 237 corporate employees found that 77% checked social accounts at work – resulting in a 1.5% decrease in productivity.
- Another study found that workers spend about 32% of their time on social media at work, losing 13% productivity.
- A self-report survey found that 42% of workers feel that social media is good for them at work, while 54% believed it to be a distraction.
What Can We Do About Social Media Addiction?
Obviously, no two workplaces or UC strategies are the same, so it’s hard to provide a one-size-fits-all strategy for effectively managing social media use. Just as there are reasons to embrace social platforms in the office, there are also threats associated with this strategy that go beyond reduced productivity, and touch on issues like data leaks, cyber scams, and reputation damage.
Any one person’s relationship to social media is individual to them, so only the user can decide whether their constant scrolling is damaging their health. However, it’s up to the leaders in today’s companies to determine whether a social strategy is a good thing or a bad thing for their employees.
Ultimately, rather than blocking social media entirely, it might be better for companies to consider how they can set a comprehensive strategy in place that suits their specific environment. Rather than adding social media to your UC world because it seems like the right thing to do, implement a plan that shows your workers how to use these platforms at work, and how to avoid their blending personal and professional lives.
When it comes down to it, social media isn’t inherently bad or good, it’s just another tool for communication in today’s digitally-connected age. As a business embracing the potential and versatility of UC, it’s up to you how you decide to use this resource to your advantage, and how you can avoid the issue of addiction.
Rob is Founder & Publisher of UC Today, a leading news publication specialising in Unified Communications & Collaboration technologies.