Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Will Social Media Breaks become Smoking Breaks for the Millennium?

In an age when people are smoking less and checking their phones more for messages, likes, and shares experts asking is time for the workplace to introduce the social media break? According to Gary Martin CEO Professor of the Australian Institute of Management, the answer is a strong yes. In an opinion piece published on 10th January in the Australian morning paper, the Herald Sun, Gary calls on employers to make provision for a social media break, akin to the smoking break or the Australian slang "Smoko" whereby social media addicts can check their Facebook, Instagram or whatever before going back to work. Gary qualified his position in an interview with 3AW radio host Tom Elliott in which likens social media addicts - junkies - to cigarette smokers.

Smoking breaks have formed an integral part of office life, ever since smoking in places of work from at desk to break out areas, was banned, and anyone looking to get their nicotine fix would have take their habit outside. Since the smoking break became an accepted norm, and somewhat misunderstood as a break entitlement in addition to the regular breaks employers offer. Now it seems the need to check and engage on social media has become equally addition to the point where reports show it is interfering with day to day work. In identifying this problem Gary Martin lists two types of at work social media users;

  • Those who check social media every five minutes and up to 100 times a day
  • Less infrequent social media users who spend anywhere from five to thirty minutes checking their messages.

Proposals for a social media break are aimed primarily at the first group who provide the biggest challenge which needs a solution. As well as the need there is also a feeling of entitlement to regularly check social media in work time since some employees claim they check work related messages and emails on their own time. Others argue that they should have the same entitlement to a social media break as smokers do to a cigarette break - although currently under UK law businesses are only required to allow one 20 minute rest for the first six hours of work, and whether or not this is paid is as at the employers discretion. Either way it seems that most users just can't help checking their phones to the point where it disrupts the work flow, leading employers to take action. Gary stated one employer - a fast food chain - instigated a policy of confiscating phones from their casual workers, then handing them back at the end of the day. Those workers who wouldn't comply were not offered their choice of working hours. Gary however feels this is too extreme and that rather than fighting the problem it would be better to find a workable solution;
"People are still going to check social media even if organisations try to block them. They're just going to pick up their phones and use their personal handsets."
 A social media break therefore provides that much needed solution - staff can take fifteen or twenty minute breaks to check their messages, and engage with followers and then return to work having had their quick blast of dopamine satisfied. The major risk, some warn is that it could kill the much needed social interaction that a smoking break offers, however Gary is reticent that this is already happening and cannot be stopped. Employers need to adapt to this and install working solutions without it impacting on the needs of the business.

Are you an employer frustrated with your staff spending too much time on their phones? Do you offer such a break to your employees or are you stricter in enforcing a no phone check during work hours?  

Employees - would you benefit from a social media break? Do you feel, just as smokers seem to get a designated smoking break, that you are entitled to a social media break? 

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