Anyone who's ever tried to hide their Facebook use at work should take heart in this news: Your boss may be looking at social media during office hours more than you are.
A new study by researchers in Norway, published recently in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, surveyed more than 11,000 employees about their views on cyber-slacking at work. It found that top-level managers were more likely to disapprove of looking at social media sites during office hours, despite research that has shown its advantages. Yet they also reported spending significantly more time on such sites at work than those who sit lower on the pecking order.
Why the contradiction? The researchers weren't sure, but they speculated in a piece posted on an Association for Psychological Science blog that it could be because top managers have relatively longer working hours. Also possible: They may be more interested in social media as a way of promoting their careers than those who are in nonmanagerial roles. Or -- perhaps most likely -- they're less fearful of losing their jobs.
The survey asked the respondents a variety of other questions about their Facebook and Twitter use at work, such as what kind of restrictions their employers put on the sites (the numbers suggest such policies actually work). It also examined how respondents' age, gender and personality type affect how much they are willing to cyberloaf. Not surprisingly, younger people are more apt to use social media at work, as are single people (versus those in a relationship) and people with higher education levels. Men, the study found, spend more time on social media at work than women do.
The study also claims to be the first to look at what kind of personality types check social media most often on the job. The researchers asked a few personality questions in the survey to help label the respondents as one of five personality types: extroverted, neurotic, agreeable, conscientious or intellect/imagination. Extroverts and neurotics were most likely to say they think it's OK to spend time on Facebook and Twitter at work; they also reported actually spending more time doing so.
Finally, the survey asked people about the demands and challenges of their jobs. Those who had heavy workloads and those who said their days were filled with interesting challenges reported using social media less. (Again, no surprise here.) But while it's encouraging to hear that meaningful work might help keep people on task, it also makes us wonder about those top managers. Either they don't have enough work to do, or they're bored.