Social media affecting productivity and stress levels of Irish workers

Galway examines the darker side of social media

Social media affecting productivity and stress levels of Irish workers

A man looks upset as he looks at a laptop computer in this posed photo | Image: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

NUI Galway is hosting a workshop on the psychological impacts of social media in the workplace.

A large body of research has considered the positive aspects of social media in work.

However, emerging studies are beginning to focus on complex - and often alarming - ways which social media use may affect workers.

NUIG say anxiety, depression, stress, information overload, work-family conflict and even addiction are some of the issues that have been studied so far.

Dr Eoin Whelan from NUI Galway is one of the speakers and the organiser of the event.

He told Newstalk Breakfast productivity is taking a hit.

"People are getting stressed out - all this information is suddenly coming at them and it's coming at such speed nowadays that people are unavailable to absorb all this information and this affects their productivity - it also affects their own well-being and quality of life as well.

"We just can't handle all this information.

A woman logs into her Facebook account | Image: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images

"There's so much communications coming at them that they're trying to focus on a particular project, two minutes later they get maybe a phone call from a client looking for an update, two minutes after that it's a boss with an instant message looking for information on a totally different project, a few minutes later it's a colleague looking for their advice...that all happens through these modern communication technologies.

"We're constantly jumping from one conversation to another.

"Every time we switch tasks or switch from conversation...it takes our brain, some studies estimate, up to 30 minutes to actually re-engage with the original task that you're trying to focus on".

Effect on mental health

Dr Whelan says social media addiction is a worrying trend: "Research is only starting to scratch that surface at the moment - and there's certainly a lot of indications to say that there is strong links between social media use and mental health problems.

"What's probably likely is that people already have some small mental health problems to begin with, but because of social media that kind of increases it to where it becomes a big problem."

Citing the issue of narcissism in younger people - the excessive interest in oneself and one's physical appearance - Dr Whelan said: "We found that teenagers and young adults the more they use social media and Facebook and these technologies, the more likely they are to exhibit narcissistic personality disorder - so there is a link between the two".

File photo shows the Twitter logo on a a smartphone | Image: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire/PA Images

Switching off?

Dr Whelan also said companies in France are actually able to bargain for your time.

"Your union have the right to negotiate with your company to limit the amount of electronic communications you receive after work hours.

"I'm not sure if that's a good policy, because if people really want to get access to their communications they're going to get access to them."

And Dr Whelan said we need to focus on switching off in general.

"We talk about teenagers having a fear of missing out...it turns out that working professionals have the exact same thing.

"They're constantly worried about what's happening in work - so at 10 o'clock in the evening when they should be relaxing, they're checking their social media.

"That needs to be controlled somehow".