In the ‘90s, we used to think of blogs as online diaries, filled with oversharing and bad graphic animations. But since then, they’ve grown into a full-blown industry.
Influencers are now able to make whole careers out of successful blogs and it’s difficult to find a company that’s not using a blog as part of its marketing strategy. There are more than 520 million blogs hosted on Tumblr and WordPress alone and, believe it or not, Twitter and Facebook are even considered “microblogging” sites.
Blogging is a central way that we communicate with each other in the digital age. It helps us express ourselves, share ideas, learn about each other, and absorb new information. That’s why some companies, like IBM, Microsoft, and Atlassian have introduced internal blogging to aid workplace communication.
At a basic level, an internal blog allows employees to post and read information about their work or even their personal lives on their company’s intranet.
You may be thinking that this doesn’t sound much different to how most organizations already share information over email, in Slack, or in the dozens of other types of collaboration tools we use. I thought the same thing before I started working at Atlassian. But there’s something about the openness of a blog and the fact that it allows you to share anything — a piece of information, insights from a project, or a story from your home life — with your entire company that has a massive impact on workplace culture. At Atlassian, I’ve watched how it can bring colleagues closer together and how it can encourage people to be vulnerable and authentic, qualities that I’d never before seen embraced at work.
Here are a few research-backed ways that you can expect your workplace culture to change if you decide to implement internal blogging.
Promotes knowledge sharing
At many companies, internal blogging gives team members an outlet to share personal insights or expertise. As a result, people use knowledge that they otherwise would have kept to themselves to educate their colleagues. This is what happened when Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a subsidiary of MasterCard, first introduced internal blogging to its team.
APT once used to spread company news via email, but as their company grew they found that this practice was starting to cause problems. People were afraid of spamming their coworkers with emails about topics that they felt were small, but interesting. It also became hard to know who and who not to include on certain emails. The result was that people started sharing less and less with one another and colleagues were increasingly left out of the loop.
“There was a company-wide thirst for information and we realized email would not be enough,” said Dave Pacifico, Vice President of Engineering at APT. According to Pacifico, the introduction of blogging helped to create a culture that made it easier for people at the company to collaborate and share information with one another.
✅Tip Check out this post for all the details on how APT was able to implement an internal blogging system and get workers to actually use it!
When blogging becomes a part of your company culture, knowledge sharing isn’t something that you and your colleagues have to actively think about doing. It becomes part of your day-to-day work.
Centralizing company knowledge in a blog also saves your employees time that would otherwise be wasted searching for information.
Back in 2012, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that internal blogging can reduce the amount of time employees spend looking for information by up to 35 percent. This is because blogs and other kinds of internal social media “turn messages into content”, according to a summary of the report. So instead of having to search through emails and Slack messages for an answer to a question before eventually just asking someone and waiting for their response, workers can just check out the blog.
When you consider that the average worker spends 1.8 hours a day looking for information, you can get the full scope of why a blog can have such a significant impact on worker productivity. It could save you and all your colleagues more than three hours of time each week.
But doesn’t internal blogging distract people from “real” work?
Blogging certainly seems like it might have the potential to actually end up distracting you from work. Especially when people start writing posts about their vacation to Hawaii or sharing pictures of their adorable dogs.
But a study by researchers from New York University’s Stern School of Business and Carnegie Mellon actually showed the opposite. The researchers found that the key to a thriving internal blog is letting employees write about both personal and work-related topics. When the company they were studying limited its employees to only posting blogs on work-related topics, overall posting to the blog decreased by 90 percent and reading of the blog decreased by nearly half.
The researchers attributed this to a “spillover effect”, finding that people were initially drawn to the blog by leisure posts, but began to read work-related posts as well once they became more involved in the community of the blog. So though it’s very likely that an internal blog might mean that people spend a little bit of time looking at goofy pictures and memes, in the end it will also contribute to them reading and sharing information about how to best do their jobs.
Builds employee bonds
Personal blog posts also have stand-alone benefits aside from influencing people to read more content about work. According to the NYU/Carnegie Mellon study, when people read personal blogs from their co-workers, it helped to build positive relationships.
While oftentimes people at work may keep their social interactions limited to those on their own teams, internal blogging is a great way for people to learn about and spark conversations with people across an organization.
This was the case for one of our Content Designers at Atlassian, Desiree Conceicao, who mentioned in one of her first blogs after working here that she practices poi, a type of Polynesian performance art that involves swinging tethered weights in geometric patterns. She quickly found two new friends from other departments who were also interested in the art and they all started to practice it together.
Atlassians have also used our internal blog as a way to support each other through shared struggles. There have been a series of posts on the blog where team members opened up about their mental health, giving tips to their co-workers about how they manage conditions, dispelling common myths about mental health, and letting other colleagues with similar issues know that they are not alone.
This culture of support that the blog has helped cultivate is part of what made one of our Program Managers, Season Hughes, want to work at Atlassian in the first place.
“I wouldn’t be embarrassed to take a day off for a sore throat, so why should I be to treat my depression?” she wrote in one of her internal blogs. “I pledge to be completely honest and open about the challenges I face, and I hope others will too. You never know; it may cause someone to want to work here.”
Encourages speaking up
The sense of connection that’s fostered through Atlassian’s internal blog also makes team members more inclined to speak their minds at work.
By design, the traditional hierarchy that we see in workplaces makes some people’s voices louder than others. Of course, everybody needs to and wants to listen to what the boss has to say. But what about that new person that you just hired on?
When you don’t have a lot of institutional knowledge about your workplace to begin with, or much authority, it can be hard to know if your voice is going to be valued. This can make some team members hesitant to speak up.
An internal blog, however, sends a clear message that an organization actually wants to hear from all of its workers. Especially when the majority of people at an organization actually start blogging, a culture can start to develop where people feel comfortable offering their perspectives or giving feedback.
Personal blogging, in particular, also gives workers a space to express themselves. It can let them know that it’s okay to bring their passions, their interests and their sense of humor to work.
Having this outlet can have a big impact on worker happiness. A research study published by the American Psychological Association even found that people who worked in a “climate of authenticity” where they felt comfortable expressing their true selves, were less likely to experience burnout at work.
How can you balance openness and appropriateness?
Of course, when you’re implementing a platform where anybody can broadcast their views to the entire company, there’s room for things to go wrong. The most widely publicized example of this would have to be a memo in which a former Google software engineer misused scientific evidence to make discriminatory arguments about his female colleagues.
After hearing this story, some workplaces might want to respond by stopping blogging altogether. But you shouldn’t. Instead, it means that you should be working from the beginning to create a clear understanding of what is and isn’t okay to talk about.
Some key guidelines that should be put in place should include:
- Be empathetic: Before you post a blog, use your common sense and think about if it might be offensive to anyone. Be extremely careful to be sensitive when speaking on topics that are outside of the realm of your personal experience.
- Don’t debate or attack somebody’s identity: Some people think that certain identities, especially relating to sexual orientation, gender, or race, are political topics that can be debated. But for people who are part of marginalized communities, their identity isn’t just ideological – it’s who they are. When you “disagree” with a person’s identity, or imply that a certain group is less-than, you’re criticizing your team members’ very existence. There’s simply no room for this kind of rhetoric in an inclusive workplace.
- Know when to take it offline: Because people can’t hear your intonation online or see your body language, our words often come off harsher in a digital format. If a disagreement via blog comments starts to escalate, you should probably go to your teammate’s desk and talk about the issue in person. You should also remember that the blog isn’t a good place to broadcast specific problems that you have with your co-workers – those kind of conflicts are also best resolved in person.
- Take accountability: When you’re sharing your ideas openly among an entire workplace, there are bound to be missteps and hurt feelings at times. If somebody tells you that your actions hurt them, take responsibility, apologize, and learn from the experience. As the person who caused the pain, you are not at liberty to tell somebody that they should not be hurt by your words.
If you and your colleagues follow these simple guidelines, your blog will become a place for productive conversation and debate, where everyone feels safe to participate. The result will be that your workers are happier, more productive, more collaborative, and feel comfortable sharing their unique perspectives. If you’re interested in starting an internal blogging at your company, click below to learn how Confluence can help you get started.