One of the key benefits of social media tools in a corporate context for me is letting employees be ‘human’ at work. Until now, as employees we have had to lead double lives.
We get up in the morning as humans – we express our opinions and listen to the opinions of our families … we talk about how we are feeling. Then, as we approach our offices, we switch off our humanity, close down our feelings and lock away our opinions. We spend the day as part of project teams – acting ‘professionally’ … create content that says nothing about us but just contains de-humanised words lacking a human context. We browse our intranets where, very occasionally, we find a page with a photo of a human being on it … only to find the accompanying words could have been written by a robot. We dress the same, act the same and behave in an acceptable, sanitised fashion.
It’s probably not a surprise to discover that people who are made to act out of character – out of balance – and who have to suppress their natural human instincts are not likely to be engaged, happy or at their most productive and creative. Social media tools can really help employees feel and behave like human beings – it allows people to put something of themselves into their work. It allows employees to have the same kind of conversations they have at home in a work context – express themselves, express their opinions … feel part of a living organism rather than part of a machine. It allows people to communicate directly with each other rather than through intermediaries where communication can easily break down or be misinterpreted. Social media is technology embedded in human behaviour.
The sooner that work places are transformed into human spaces the better for all of us. After all, work is an activity, not a place …