How Much is Too Much? The Social Workplace

How Much is Too Much? The Social Workplace

I wish there was a definitive answer to this question, because it comes up a lot in the world of SharePoint intranets. In the modern workplace, how much social is too much?

First let’s say what we mean by “social” at work. It’s no longer Birthday Cake Tuesday and Hawaiian Shirt Friday where everyone congregates and chats awkwardly, longing to go back to their cubes just so they may be released from forced interactions with management. Hap-py-bir-th-day-dear-teeee-eeeeam… Please just make lightning strike right here, right now. MAKE IT END. Thank goodness it mostly has. Right? I hope.

It’s incredibly interesting to me that the social workplace now takes both human and device-based interaction up a notch. Social now means bringing perks into the workplace that make employees feel valued, acknowledged, and engaged. I’m talking food trucks at the curb, dry cleaning service, massage therapy days, elves in stupid hats who wrap holiday gifts that employees drop off in the conference room. Social also means integrating elements of social media into automated productivity and engagement suites—IM/chat, discussion boards, video posts, “likes,” employee-focused news, front-and-center on your intranet, shares, downloads, let me upload pics of my new rescue pup so that my team can oooh-and-ahhh, I have a new bike that I need to sell, so I want to put it on the classified site at work, all that.

We all know what comes next, right? The “right” amount is… Eeeeenh it depends.

If you are a start-up in the Valley with nap mats and foosball tables and mood lighting and your 12 employees each work 90 hours a week, there’s no such thing as too social. The social experience keeps them interactive, entertained, collaborative, happy, motivated. And they probably can’t live or work happily without it—because Millennials.

If you are a financial institution with two-way mirrors and few windows and metal detectors at the door and require everyone to wear suits, any social is maybe too social. The social experience is distracting, probably too risky given privacy regs, lowers productivity, and appears unprofessional to your clients. And they can live and work without it–because Boomers.

Most of us are in organizations that function in between the poles of generational and social-tolerance spectrums.

Hang with me for a minute here, friends. It’s hyperbolic personal anecdote time!

You know what I love? Socializing.

I’m a little bit of a butterfly. I appreciate MBWA and getting a feel for the mood of the people. I could spend an entire day hanging out with my work buds and my online friends and chatting up my favorite clients who pop up green on O365/Skype. I have a big support network, I love them all, and I really like talking to them. Most of my cellular data plan is spent on texting. These people know all my stuff, I know theirs, and I legit love catching up with them on the reg. Auto-correct often thwarts my messaging, so I over-text to compensate.

On that note, if typing were an Olympic sport, I’d be a gold medalist every 4 years (or 8? I don’t speak sports). IM, text, blogs, comments. I’m all about expressing my voice electronically. In addition to typing the things, I like reading the things. I’m right on the cusp of GenX/Millennial, so, yeah, I sometimes tumble down the rabbit holes of the internet. I could spend an entire day online doing nothing in particular except learning cool stuff that doesn’t matter at all, except to my winning teammates when I go into beast-mode at bar trivia.

See what just happened there?

Without some planning, most employees, even the ones who are conscientious and care a lot about their work, will sink hours (and hours and hours, so many hours) into beingsocial. They aren’t necessarily slacking on purpose. They’re just taking the opportunity to be social personally, chatting online and in the halls, without any connection to the mission and vision of the company. It’s probably because that connection, from the personal social experience to the workplace social experience, hasn’t been thought through or communicated. The problem isn’t how much social. We’re asking the wrong question. The problem is how do we create a social workplace that will inspire productivity, create opportunities for teamwork, and let employees know that they are being heard and their needs are being met.

If I’m working 90 hours a week, damn right I want a massage therapy day! If I’m a remote employee, far flung from headquarters, yes, I want employee-centric news so I can feel connected. And! I want to be able to comment on things and know things, as if I were sitting next to the Bobs at HQ. I want to be able to thumbs-up a cool training video instead of writing an email to express my delight (let’s be real, I’m never going to get to that email). I want to be able to ping Cody on Skype to remind him about our daily catch-up call, which I forgot to put on the calendar, again. I want to offer Rogue’s employees perks that let them know they are valuable and that we are fully aware we must stay competitive to keep them.

That’s giving good social workplace. Are you doing it?


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