This article was originally published by news.com.au
By Melanie Burgess
More than half of Australians admit to checking Facebook while at work. Are the breaks good for mental health or an excuse to waste time?
Social media has become the new smoko as workers break up their day with sneaky checks of posts and feeds.
While some say the technology-driven respite is a healthier alternative to the traditional cigarette break, others see it as simply a new-age addiction.
A third of Australians (35 per cent) accessed social media more than five times a day in 2018, up from 26 per cent a year earlier, according to Sensis’ Yellow Social Media Report, which surveyed 1500 Australians.
Meanwhile, a Twitter poll of 2000 Australians by SEEK showed 57 per cent admitted to checking Facebook during work hours.
Some employers had taken to blocking social media access on work devices however, Hays managing director Nick Deligiannis said this was becoming less common.
“Very few organisations these days ban their staff from using social media at work (as) it’s an expensive process and most people have smartphones anyway,” he said.
“Instead, most employers are focused on building a workplace culture of freedom and trust.”
Globally, 2018 data from Sprout Social revealed people were most active on Facebook at about 2pm on a Wednesday and Thursday — well within typical work hours, and potentially lining up with the midweek afternoon energy slump.
Mariska Folley, founder and managing director of co-working business @Workspaces, said social media had become the new smoko as it was a “new-age addiction” but staff should be allowed to use it during work hours.
“Millennials communicate and engage online. It’s how they function. Workplaces that have strict policies around use of the internet including social media for personal use need to move into the year 2019,” she said.
“People spend a lot of time at work now and they need to be able to deal with things (such as) banking, shopping, family matters, communicating … and much of this is done online and via social media.
“If staff know they have the flexibility to deal with personal issues while at work, they are happier, more productive and more engaged with others.”
Ms Folley said taking short breaks to engage in social media was also good for mental health.
“I have manipulated my Facebook to see only things that are positive and good, such as health and good news … it’s refreshing,” she said.
Amantha Imber, chief executive of innovation consultancy Inventium and host of the podcast How I Work, said checking social media at work was fine in moderation however, the average person spent four hours a day on their phone.
“If you pop on in your lunch break or once in the morning and once in the afternoon it’s OK, although it’s not the most energising way to take a break at work,” she said.
“Often you leave feeling worse about yourself than when you first hopped on.”
Ms Imber said social media was most disruptive for people who were addicted, checking every five or 10 minutes.
“Even just seeing notifications pop up, regardless of whether you are checking them, decreases your cognitive ability,” she said.
Dr Vincent Candrawinata, founder of nutrition company Renovatio, said he checked social media on work time and allowed his staff to do the same.
“(In the beginning) I found myself checking my phone constantly because there was euphoria that people would tune in to see my breakfast bowl,” he said.
“Now, I have certain times that I pick up my phone or iPad to make a post or interact with people who comment. I think that is healthier than spending your time checking constantly or whenever there is a notification.”
For Halcyon Knights recruitment consultant Sam Robertson, “a two-minute scroll” on social media was a way to refocus or “find resilience after a setback”.
“In most jobs, you are juggling so many balls at one time that sometimes you just need a couple of minutes where you aren’t thinking about work in order to refocus and continue your day with the energy you need to bring to your role,” he said.
“You can’t be productive every minute of every day, so what you do in those few minutes of downtime should be up to you — whether that’s checking social media or taking a walk around the block.”
Halcyon Knights director of people, culture and operations Harley McLean said the company had not needed to set guidelines for social media use.
“Studies show that breaks increase productivity and creativity and reduce risk of stress and burnout,” he said.
“If spending 15 minutes throughout the day on social media means they’re more relaxed and therefore more effective, then that’s great for everyone.”