A Case Study Of Online Social Networking At Workplaces
1.1. Background Of The Study
The internet can be an incredible business tool- and a potential threat. The change that the internet has brought to the world is certainly comparable to revolutionary innovations in the past such as the introduction of automobiles, the printing press, telephones etc. (Bloxx Ltd, 2008). For most individuals and organizations, the internet is an indispensable tool. Almost anything from communication to buying and selling, reading the news, watching movies, listening to music, research, storing data etc can be done using the internet and with much more convenience and speed.
Despite being very useful, the internet also has considerable downsides. As has always been the case with humans and the use of their inventions, the internet has become a tool for good and also for evil. Cybercrime is a major concern, pornography is easily accessible on the internet, individuals and organizations are constantly exposed to malicious programmes that can cause severe damage to their computer systems with hackers also posing a constant threat.
One of the major internet related issues that has become a hot topic in the business world has to do with internet use and productivity at the workplace. Internet abuse is rife at the workplace and has been identified as a major productivity curse. According to one website, a large proportion of corporate web traffic is for non-work purposes: gambling, music downloads, pornography and checking of personal webmail accounts. ( . Another website also claims that more than two-thirds of online porn traffic occurs during office hours. (See . Internet surfing is often irresistible, largely because it can be so fascinating; social networking sites (online social media) is particularly becoming a tenacious distraction.
Online Social Media is the latest internet based technology that has taken the world by storm. Popular social websites include Facebook, Twitter, Hi5, MySpace, Youtube, Linkeldn etc. These websites allow individuals to connect, communicate and share information with revolutionary speed and ease hence they are popularly referred to as social networking sites. The growth of these social networking sites has been phenomenal and people are using them everywhere including the workplace. Facebook (as cited in a Message Labs whitepaper, 2009), has over 250 million active users worldwide with over 120 million users logging on at least once each day.
Social networking tools are increasingly becoming the object of scholarly research. Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, investigating how such sites may play into issues of identity, security and privacy, sexuality, social capital, youth culture, and education. (Boyd, 2007). The use of online social media at the workplace has especially generated much concern and debates lately. While some studies conducted by various research organizations have established the fact that social networking at the workplace results in lost productivity, other studies claim that the contrary is the case.
The use of the internet in Ghana for social purposes is catching on especially with the younger generation like wildfire. Facebook, hi5 and other such web based programs are becoming very popular amongst young Ghanaians. It is worth noting that internet penetration in Ghana is low (4.2% as at June 2009) according to statistics from the International Telecommunications Union. However, as noted by Frempong and Stark (2005), most people in Ghana access the internet mainly through collective access points namely, internet cafes, workplaces and schools. It can be inferred therefore that a lot of workers in Ghana, working in places which have internet access and who are actively engaged in social networking will access the social media at the workplace. This study will seek to find out the extent of online social networking at the workplace in Ghana and the views of both employees and managers/employers about its affects on productivity at the workplace.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
Using social networking sites during working hours has recently become a hot topic for debate in many countries with some employers even blocking access to the sites citing concerns such as time-wasting, network security, etc. Advocates of social networking argue that blocking access or banning the use of social networking sites at the workplace will actually be counter-productive, that they should be recognized as a new form of social interaction that needs to be managed and not prohibited ( UK Trade Union Congress, August 2007) . In Ghana, Social networking is yet to generate the kind debate it has generated in other countries. Productivity is very essential for economic growth and development; already Ghana has its fair share of low productivity problems and if social networking really impacts significantly on workplace productivity then it deserves some serious attention.
1.3. Objective of the Research
The objective of the study is to do a situation analysis on the issue of online social networking at workplaces in Ghana, by finding out the popularity, extent of usage, and also opinions of workers on the subject.
1.4. Research Questions
- What are the most popular social networking sites in Ghana?
- Who are the active users of social media in Ghana
- How widespread is the use of social networking sites at workplaces in Ghana?
- What are the views of workers on social networking and its impact on productivity at the workplace?
1.5. Significance of the Study
The internet has become an indispensable tool for most businesses. As the age profile of the workforce shifts towards the generation of young people who have grown up with technologies such as the internet, mobile phones etc as a natural part of their lives, they will bring to the workplace new abilities, habits and expectations about technology use at the workplace. It is important that employers and employees know how the use of technology at the workplace impact positively or negatively on work output. Whiles the use of social networking technologies in the workplace has become a hot topic for discussion and research in some countries it is yet to attract such attention in Ghana even though online social networking sites are becoming very popular especially among the youth in Ghana. This study will hopefully generate some interest and discussions on the issue and will also serve as a basis for further research on the subject in Ghana.
1.6. Scope and Limitations of the Study
The focus of the study is on social network sites and not on ‗social networking‘ as a social phenomena. Any use of the phrase ‗social networking‘ will therefore be referring to the use of social network sites.
It is not the objective of the study to establish whether the use of social network sites actually results in low productivity or enhances it. Due to the nature and the subject of the study only white collar workers will be involved as this category of workers are more likely to use the internet as part of their work.
The study was conducted in Accra only. It was thought that since Accra is the capital and also the business and financial hub of Ghana and also the most populous city in Ghana, it will have the highest population of white collar workers.
In this study, issues such as network security, cybercrime, pornography, online marketing and advertisement etc will be touched on briefly in the literature review section but only as far as they relate to social network sites and productivity at the workplace.
1.7. Structure of the Study
- Chapter 1 introduces the problem of the study, the objectives of the study, the research questions and the scope and limitations of the study.
- Chapter 2 reviews some of the available and relevant literature on the subject of the study.
- Chapter 3 looks at the research method adopted for the study.
- Chapter 4 An analysis of the data gathered from the survey performed is carried out .
- Chapter 5 The summary of the study, conclusions and recommendations are done.
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