“Like me!”: Being active on social media to counteract social distancing: between work engagement and the risk of addiction.

Scientific Newsflash and Courses of Action


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Because of the physical distancing brought about by the pandemic, social media is being used more than ever in both professional and personal life. How can employers and employees strike the right balance between the advantages and disadvantages of using social media?


This initiative was made possible through a collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke and is supported by the Chief Scientist of Québec, with the Fonds de recherche du Québec.

Nancy Youssef

Nancy Youssef is a Ph.D student in business administration (DBA) at the School of Management of the Université de Sherbrooke. Her research focuses on the link between the field of law practice and workplace well-being.

The contents on a purple background are the doctoral student’s recommendations.



  • 97.3% of knowledge workers (those who produce, disseminate or sell knowledge, e.g. teachers, lawyers, doctors, administrative professionals) use social media during work hours.
  • The average usage time is 39 minutes per work day.
  • On average, non-work social media use represents 4.6 minutes per hour of work.



Social interaction on social media [1]

Social media are web applications that allow users to create, share and exchange information and content with other people online (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). Social interaction is central to social media, which also fulfill people’s need to stay connected.

Work engagement [2]

This is characterized by vigour, dedication and being absorbed in one’s work. This involves a significant investment of mental and physical energy, perseverance, and a willingness to be fully dedicated to one’s work with a sense of pride and enthusiasm. Engaged employees are more likely to be devoted to, and engrossed in, their work.

Reactions to social media [3]

Reading posts on social media may give rise to negative emotions (e.g. anger or jealousy). Negative emotional reactions to information posted by colleagues on social media can have harmful effects on employees’ health and organizational productivity.

Social media addiction [3]

Excessive and compulsive use of social media (e.g. feeling the need to use social media constantly or becoming agitated and distressed when use is prohibited or not possible) to the point of neglecting activities in other areas of life (e.g. fulfilling one’s work time obligations or spending time with family).



Using social media as a break increases work engagement. *

The planned use of social media (e.g. micro-breaks) increased worker engagement during the following hour of work. Also, an employee using social media when they experience a temporary drop in energy or interest in a task will be more engaged in their work later in the day. However, continuous use of social media decreases work engagement.


Social media addiction increases work-life conflict and, as a result, decreases work performance. **

The time and energy invested in social media decrease the time and energy devoted to personal, family, and work activities. 

The more drastic an employee’s reactions to social media, the higher the risk of burnout and, as a result, the poorer the work performance. **

Reactions (e.g. envy and jealousy) to information posted on social media (e.g. colleagues’ posts) contribute to depleting an employee’s emotional resources and, as a result, may lead to burnout.







Provide a framework for the use of social media

  • * Avoid monitoring, restricting or blocking access to social media; workers could interpret this as a lack of confidence in them, which could decrease their motivation and well-being. Also, workers will find other ways of accessing media (e.g. by configuring VPN connections to access prohibited websites or by using their personal cell phones).
  • Establish a clear social media usage policy that includes stipulations related to the respect for privacy and confidentiality, as well as disciplinary measures for inappropriate or illegal use. Inform your employees of this policy and train them in how to apply it.
  • Remember that social media are channels for virtual interactions and the same codes of conduct apply as with face-to-face interactions (e.g. respect, professionalism).

  • ** Be aware of the time and energy you are investing in social media and the personal and professional impact it has on you.

Manage social media usage time

  • ** Make sure to inform employees of the recommended time slots (e.g. beginning and end of the day or during breaks) for employee social media use.
  • ** In order to define the time devoted to social media and reduce the risks of addiction, you can recommend installing timers that start when a social media site is opened and notify the employee after a certain amount of time.
  • ** Set aside specific moments in the day for social media use instead of using it constantly. Sporadic use favours recovery, while continuous use is related to exhaustion.

Propose other methods of interacting to counteract social isolation

  • Offer other alternatives for employees to interact with each other during telework (e.g. collaboration platforms with chatting and video call features).
  • Organize virtual video meetings to talk about things unrelated to work or take a few minutes after work meetings for casual chats.
  • Organize virtual video meetings to talk about things unrelated to work.

Youssef, N. (2020). “Like me!”: Being active on social media to counteract social distancing: between work engagement and the risk of addiction. Global-Watch Scientific Newsflash, available at www.global-watch.com

Flash written under the direction of France St-Hilaire, associate professor of Human Resources at the Université de Sherbrooke’s School of Management.


Syrek, C. J., Kühnel, J., Vahle-Hinz, T., & De Bloom, J. (2018). Share, like, twitter, and connect: Ecological momentary assessment to examine the relationship between non-work social media use at work and work engagement. Work & Stress, 32(3), 209-227.

Zivnuska, S., Carlson, J. R., Carlson, D. S., Harris, R. B., & Harris, K. J. (2019). Social media addiction and social media reactions: The implications for job performance. The Journal of Social Psychology, 159(6), 746-760.

Also available on global-watch.com

[1] Adapted from Zivnuska et al. (2019) and Syrek et al. (2018)

[2] Adapted from Syrek et al. (2018)

[3] Adapted from Zivnuska et al. (2019)

* Syrek et al. (2018)

** Zivnuska et al. (2019)

Pierre Breton
Author: Pierre Breton