Perhaps the title of this entry is not so far-fetched. A recent study by AT&T has uncovered some interesting findings. Employees who use social networking sites and tools at work are more productive than their non-networking counterparts.

You can read a synopsis of the study at the Media Newsroom on the AT&T website by following this link:

http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=4800&cdvn=news&newsarticleid=26293

But does this come as any real surprise? Studies have also shown that surgeons who regularly play video games perform better than those who do not, which seems reasonable, since their eye-hand coordination is probably more acute. So why shouldn’t a worker at a company that uses internet and intranet social networks benefit from a little practice here and there? Could a good answer to every job interviewee’s most feared question — What is your greatest weakness? — finally exist. Answer — I love to post on the web and engage in discussions with all different kinds of people, even at work! It seems to satisfy the requirements, offering up a weakness which is actually a strength.

The study looked at five European countries — Holland, The UK, Germany, France and Belgium. Some of the more interesting statistics revealed in the article include:

  • 65% of those surveyed who were already using social networking tools at work said they had made their company’s workers more efficient. 46% claimed that these tools had helped them personally.
  • 65% of all workers surveyed said that their company currently uses social networking tools in the workplace with the number 4 tool on the list being social networking websites like Facebook, followed by internet blogs at number 5 (collaborative corporate intranets were the number 1 tool).
  • 74% of those surveyed said there was a benefit to social networking in the workplace, the top 2 benefits being an increase in workers’ knowledge (38%) and providing access to problem solutions (38%).

In case you are thinking that social networking is a corporate panacea, the article also includes several drawbacks:

  • Social networks are a distraction to workers (49%).
  • Confidential information could be compromised (45%).
  • It’s impossible to measure how effective social networking tools really are (24%).

The future will show just how effective these tools can be. Can the beast be tamed, or is it destined to always be beyond the control of employers? I am personally leaning towards the former, as I can still remember a job that I had not so long ago where using e-mail at work was grounds for termination! My how times have changed!

So, employers take note. Adding social networking tools to your company’s arsenal could bring many benefits. If you are a hospital director, however, you may find that installing a Playstation on every floor produces more results.

What do you think?

(1) Is social networking in the workplace a good or bad thing? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

(2) Does your company use social networking tools? Does your boss allow you to use internet versions (Facebook, blogs, etc.) at work? What benefits has this reaped for your company?

(3) What social networking tools are you currently using at work? Which would you like to see introduced?