A recent study by Joe Nandhakumar and colleagues at the Warwick Business School has perhaps overturned some of the sunday supplement nattering about social networks being nothing by a distraction. Looking at companies in the UK, Finland, and Germany, the researchers found that having a diverse set of communication tools meant they could be more flexible about when and where they accomplish their work. Professor Nandhakumar said, ‘We found that the ubiquitous digital connectivity altered workers’ sense of ‘presence’ and helped rather than hindered the effective completion of collective tasks. This study also indicates that such digital connectivity afforded workers much greater latitude and control over their timing and location of their work.’
The paper is entitle Exploring social network interactions in enterprise systems: the role of virtual co-presence, and will be published in Information Systems Journal.
‘Evidence from our research suggests that knowledge workers who were able to successfully deal with the timing and sequence of their ‘presence’ and responses in a digitally mediated workplace were better able to organise the flow of work through digital media. Companies and organisations should make sure their workers can control the flow of information, turning it on and off when needed.’
Another proof point suggesting that getting value from social tools requires a growing level of autonomy for the people involved in the communications, and that given that autonomy people will take the steps that make them personally more productive.
Business people aren’t stupid: they reason they want to use tools like Twitter and LinkedIn is that it helps them get their work done. They aren’t goofing off, or gossiping.