Research claims using social tools at work can boost productivity

Social networks aren't just for stalking exes and sharing cat videos anymore. According to new research from Microsoft, a growing number of people are turning to social tools at work to increase productivity.

There's a small hitch in that plan, though: over 30 per cent of companies underestimate the benefits of and sometimes restrict the use of social tools, much to employees' annoyance.

The survey of almost 10,000 information workers in 32 countries found that productivity and security concerns were the two biggest reasons for restricting access to social networks in the workplace. Other worries included human resources, company image, data loss, and bandwidth usage.

Still, 39 per cent of respondents said that there isn't enough collaboration at the office, 40 per cent think social tools would help with teamwork, and 31 per cent said they would spend their own money on social tools, according to the report, which was conducted by Ipsos at the behest of Microsoft.

"Just as email accelerated the pace of business in the '90s, enterprise social will be the driver of greater agility and transformation in the 21st century workplace," Kurt DelBene, president of Microsoft's Office Division, said in a statement.

Broken down by country, China reported an 84 per cent boost in productivity by using social tools, while India and Turkey found a 71 per cent improvement, and Mexico and Russia landed at 67 per cent. The UK was at 35 per cent.

In terms of industry, those in the business of travel and hospitality; media and publishing; IT; mining, oil and gas; telecoms; and manufacturing are likely to be more productive thanks to social tools. Those in government positions are least likely to benefit.

"As we look ahead at how collaboration and communications continue to evolve, we believe the tools people use today — email, instant messaging, voice, videoconferencing, social — will come together and be deeply integrated into apps in ways that will speed collaboration and truly transform the way people work," DelBene said.

It should come as no surprise that Microsoft is pushing the use of social tools in the enterprise, given that it owns two of the biggest - Yammer and Skype.

There's also Lync, which was formally integrated with Skype this week. "With Lync-Skype connectivity, Skype users will now be able to reach a broader network of colleagues, partners and customers who are using Lync, Microsoft's unified communications platform, connecting them into organizations of all sizes," Skype wrote in a blog post. "Lync provides a consistent, single client experience for presence, instant messaging, voice, video and meetings for business productivity and is owned by over 90 of the Fortune Global 100 companies."