Infographic: how work related social media use varies by country, gender and sector

A new survey from Microsoft has highlighted a widespread mismatch in the use of social media in a business context across regions and between gender and age groups. It also claims that firms should be more open to social media use and that their unwillingness to adopt them more openly is hampering personal productivity. In the survey conducted in conjunction with Ipsos, nearly half of employees report that social tools at work help increase their productivity, but more than 30 percent of companies underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use. An infographic of the survey’s main results can be found here.

The new survey of  nearly 10,000 people found that there were wide differences between national practices and attitudes. Companies in developing countries such as China and India are more progressive about using social media in the workplace than their counterparts in the developed world. Just under a quarter (23 percent) of Americans claimed never to use social media as a communication tool at work while only 1 per cent of Chinese respondents only 1 percent said they did not use social media. In Brazil, Russia and India, no more than 6 percent of workers said they didn’t use these social tools.

Productivity loss was seen as the main reason given by workers in nine countries to justify the restrictions placed on them in the office, including Belgium, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Poland, South Africa and Spain. Security concerns were cited by the remaining 23 countries as their top reason for restricting social tools.

The study added that in some cases the use of social tools has created some problems. In India and Chile, where the use of such tools is more likely to be encouraged by employers, four in 10 said that they had gotten into trouble for using the tools at work.

The survey also found that there were distinct gender differences in the way such tools are used and perceived. Women were more likely to use social tools in four of the five stated applications of social media – communicating with colleagues, sharing documents, communicating with clients and promoting work-related initiatives; while men were more likely to grow their professional networks.

Conversely, the study found that men were more likely than women to attribute higher productivity to social tools when used at work, while women were more likely to believe that the company restricted the use of such tools. When it came to concerns about the use of social media, men were more likely to cite security issues while women focussed on productivity loss.

The study found that security concerns were higher within the financial services and public sectors, with 74 percent of respondents in the financial sector and 72 percent in the government sector noting specific concerns. By contrast 59 percent in the retail sector along with 57 percent in the travel and hospitality sector were more likely to blame productivity loss as a reason to restrict social tools from being implemented. Distractions were also reportedly more widespread among younger respondents.

The report also highlights how the popularity of social media at a personal level is driving the uptake of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approaches as companies accede to the  seemingly unstoppable force. “About three in 10 respondents said they would spend their own money on social tools in the workplace if it made them more productive,” the reported claims. “Yet many employers do not seem to recognize the value of social tools; just 30 percent of respondents feel their managers embrace social tools, and more than one-third feel their company underestimates the benefits of these tools.”