>Who are you?
– I’m Allen. I’ve been telecommuting for four years.
> Allen? I released you four years ago… Didn’t you get my e-mail?
– This is exactly why I stopped coming to the office.
:: Scott Adams
Companies are innovating in the workplace in order to keep valuable employees engaged and creative. So, many allow employees to work from a home base while keeping in touch with the main office. The problem here is that it is sometimes difficult to brainstorm with fellow employees and keep the flow of ideas consistent.
Most people who telecommute will spend about two days a week working away from home, but they still need to feel connected to the job they do. This problem has been solved in what has become a growing trend. The business establishes a separate social network for employees that allows them to assist one another and stay connected in a setting that allows both professional dialog and personal banter. Businesses use personal websites to make sure they maintain productivity during working hours and relationships afterward.
The question becomes — are these systems primarily used for work purposes or are they just web-based water coolers? It is important for a company to examine the pros and cons of the decision to implement an internal social network. Questions such as “What are the goals of the program?” and “How much time should an employee spend on the site?” need to be answered.
Groups are more productive than individual efforts. This is an intuitive statement that has been repeatedly vetted by empirical research. An individual is more likely to show personal bias when they are ungoverned by the critiques of others. People are social creatures who require the give and take of the workplace environment. An internal social network is able to provide this by allowing individuals to post notes, graphs, pictures, etc. in real time to colleagues. The support can prove invaluable.
Creativity is also enhanced via a social network. Whereas an individual may become blocked by a lack of ideas, a group can rely on each other to keep the creative train rolling. An enterprise network allows coworkers to interact in real time just as they would if they were in the same room. The flow of ideas allows more productivity while working in different locations.
Of course, there are going to be downsides to any idea. On one hand there are always going to be people who abuse the privilege of working from home. They are the people who, even if they are conversing with coworkers, spend more time on personal than professional business. The ease of the home environment is conducive to a home attitude whereas someone at a workplace is better able to separate the two settings. Working from home while conversing with coworkers via an internal social network can become akin to Facebooking.
The flow of ideas is somewhat hindered by distance also. Even though employees can share some information with each other, they are not able to cross some boundaries. If the project is a piece of software, there may be confidential elements that cannot be shared. If it is a project involving a relatively massive physical component, workers may need to be at the site to truly understand what is happening.
An internal social network is a good idea in some work places, but managers need to be cautious. Set guidelines that are monitored, but give as much freedom as possible. Employees need to take risks and this could be the perfect platform.
Credit where credit is due:: Sasha Brown
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