Is social media good for work/life balance?

Is social media good for work/life balance?

In my last post about online identities, one commenter alluded to the positive/negative implications of social media for work-life balance. I’m curious about what the differences and similarities might be for people using social media in relation to their work interests who are in front line and administration/management roles respectively. What does it mean for a balance between the personal and professional and the implications for our own wellbeing? I bring a particular perspective as a manager working in a corporate role.  @Ermintrude2 brings a perspective from her role working as a social worker in a community mental health team. Here’s our conversation…

@VictoriaBetton – I’m interested how our use of social media influences work/life balance and how we keep them separate or merge them together. So my first question is about time. Time spent on social media is time not spent elsewhere. Social media implodes temporal and spatial limitations – we can connect with people all over the globe either in real-time or through snatches of conversation throughout the day (or night). I mostly use social media in relation to my associated work and academic interests, which mean 9-5 parameters collapse. Interestingly, my web search of social media and work/life balance largely focused on people using social media for personal purposes during work time. This is probably the opposite for both of us. What are your thoughts?

@Ermintrude2 – Good point. I think it depends what I consider work and what I consider life!  I expect my own boundaries might not be the same as other people’s. My use of social media during hours I am employed to be at work is limited usually to breaks/travelling between visits/waiting at bus stops. It’s too busy to be anything but; however, my out of hours use of social media is not about the day to day work as much as an exploration of professionalism and issues around work more globally. What is it to be a ‘social worker’ or a ‘mental health professional’? I learn from reading blogs/tweets from those who work in other sectors and who use the types of services I help provide. I find it a useful space to enjoy, reflect and test ground and ideas as well as network. I use this in my work setting but I don’t see it as work.

I do think it raises an interesting question about limitations though and sometimes the need (and desire) to respond in a timely manner as well as etiquette.  How do you manage to limit the time you spent online so it doesn’t encroach too much on the rest of ‘life’ and other interests?

@VictoriaBetton – the way you describe your use of social media resonates with me. I tweet from @loveartsleeds and @LeedsandYorkPFT accounts in the day and a little bit from @VictoriaBetton but mostly I connect and blog etc. when I’m not at work. In answer to your question, I am usually forced to limit my time by my family giving me a collective stern look. I get a lot of nourishment from my online connections (many of which enhance offline ones) but I’m also aware that engaging with others online can result in me only giving half my attention to stuff going on around me. Not always a good thing. Can you envisage a time when you use social media, in work time, agreed by your employer as part of the networking and professional development. I’m guessing your employer expects you to do this face-to-face?

@Ermintrude2 I expect that at some point in the future, in some employment settings, use of social media in work time will be valued, validated and indeed, expected.  Whether it’s the case in the particular place I work (and before I retire!) I’m not so sure about, but a part of me likes the separation too. I never restricted myself in terms of professional development to activities completed during work hours and I don’t see this any differently.  Moving from use for professional development to practical uses to improve the quality of life for those that I work with, I think there’s massive potential but we need more flexible in terms of the IT provided and expected uses. I’ve used Direct Payments to buy laptops and broadband access, set people up with Skype and Facebook to promote contact with family and signposted people to online forums (particularly carers’ groups) that could provide different types of support to the more ‘formal’ structures. How are you able to use social media to promote and develop services?

@VictoriaBetton I love the way you are using direct payments and helping people get online. I think capacity building is pivotal. I am having various conversations with colleagues in our NHS Trust about how we use the web both for professional/peer support and enter a dialogue with people who use our services, carers, staff and the public. We’ve started with live tweeting various involvement events as well as our Council of Governors and Board of Directors meetings. People can ask questions and we try to respond in real time or post on our website the next day. We are having a think with a psychology user group about how they can use social media to expand their group and engage with a wider group of interested people. We’re also talking to other NHS Trusts who have developed secure spaces for clinical work and peer support. We’re just about to overhaul our intranet system and one key feature will be discussion forums etc. for staff. So tons going on, but frustratingly all at such early stages. I just want to fast forward 18 months! One final question from me – what would you say is the impact of social media for your own mental health and wellbeing and what impact have you seen for the people you have supported to get online?

@Ermintrude2 I don’t want to overplay my role in ‘getting people online’ as I haven’t done as much as I would like – partly due to the constraints of time in terms of how much I can spend with people individually and partly due to availability of equipment; but on the occasions when I have either helped or worked with people who have used more online resources, the effect has been significant in terms of tackling social isolation particularly, and promoting that feeling of connectedness. Not everyone can get to physically located support groups and the support offered by peers is sometimes much more valuable than that offered by ‘professionals’!

In terms of the benefits I have reaped personally, I feel more confident without doubt. I love that I have been able to explore more communities and groups of people based on the interests I have rather than being restricted by time/geography. I can be quite introverted and shy, even. The social media persona I have created has lent me significant confidence that I have been able to transpose into an offline setting.

@VictoriaBetton thank you for having a conversation with me on this topic @Ermintrude2 – really appreciate it. Great to hear the positive impacts of social media, both for the people you support and yourself. How do other people use social media in a work context and what does it mean for parameters for non-work life? Is it a good thing for wellbeing or can it have negative affects? Does your employer support you using social media for professional development and networking? We’d love to hear your views 🙂

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