Social media has gone beyond merely connecting friends and relatives. Today's consumers get their news from sites like Facebook and Twitter, whether through shared links from friends or trending topics. Now that we are in an election year, people can spend more time on social media than usual as they track poll results and debate friends or even strangers.

In a business environment, this social media overuse can become a huge time waster. In the final days, leaders may find that very little work is getting done as everyone rushes to keep up with all of the social media chatter. If that's the case in your business, here are a few things you can do to keep employees focused in the days surrounding Election Day.

Keep Employees Accountable

The best way to keep workers off social media is to make sure they stay busy. However, when deadlines are looming and clients are waiting, the future of the country can distract even the most professional employees. Accept a small amount of distraction, but still hold employees accountable for completing their daily duties. The simple realization that a status update meeting is coming can prompt employees to set social media aside and focus on work for a while. You can also occasionally send emails politely prompting team members to check in with a status update when they get a free moment.

Set Policies

Since social networking is part of building a business, you're likely hesitant to block social media sites altogether. You can, however, put guidelines in place to protect your business and its technology infrastructure. A professional security policy, requiring a signature of every employee, can make clear that all issued equipment is to be used strictly for business purposes. Probably the best approach is to refrain from policing employee activity unless it becomes a problem, only taking action if work isn't getting done or the behavior causes performance issues at the server level.

Do Surprise Drop-Bys

The fear of a supervisor catching them will keep many employees off of social media throughout the workday. If there is an employee who seems to spend more time playing than working, make a surprise stop by that person's desk occasionally. In general, it can help to have a physical presence in the office. Instead of sending emails, make the rounds every day and check in personally with each employee. In addition to keeping employees on track, you'll also be able to build stronger relationships with your team by having in-person interactions every day.

Address It Properly

It can be tempting to launch group emails announcing general policies to police perceived behaviors in the office. For instance, you may realize one or two employees are spending too much time on social media, so you choose to send a single email to everyone asking them to limit that type of behavior. It's of course possible that such an email might annoy employees, leading to a reduction in morale that also harms productivity. If you'd like to avoid such emails, directly address habitual offenders and ask them what you can do to help them better focus on their work during this distracting period. If you feel the behavior will end as soon as the election is over, you may want to simply ask that employee for status updates on impending work and wait for things to improve.

Online distractions can lead to missed deadlines and wasted money. However, leaders who try to micromanage every minute of each employee's day often find that it hurts company culture. To create a positive environment while still ensuring work gets done, it's important to accept that a small amount of social media use is an inevitable part of today's day-to-day life and manage employees accordingly.