Collaboration and Social Tools Drain Business Productivity

May 23, 2011 ( - The proliferation of collaboration and social tools designed to increase productivity is actually costing businesses millions of dollars per year in lost productivity, according to a survey commissioned by social email software provider

A press release said nearly 60% of work interruptions now involve either using tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. The survey found 45% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions.   

That hour per day translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person annually, assuming an average salary of $30/hour, said. For businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year.  

While traditional activities such as phone calls, talking with coworkers, and ad hoc meetings account for 43% of work interruptions today, the lion’s share of distractions are now electronically based, according to the survey results. Users reported getting sidetracked in email processing (23%), switching windows to complete tasks (10%), personal online activities such as Facebook (9%), instant messaging (6%), text messaging (5%) and Web search (3%).   

Multiple devices on the desktop contribute to the problem, with 65% of respondents reporting that they utilize up to three additional monitors and/or mobile devices simultaneously with their main computer screen as they work.   

Users also spend an average of 2-1/2 hours per week trying to find the documents they need in multiple local, corporate and cloud repositories. That adds up to 16 work days annually, costing businesses $3,900 per $30/hour employee per year to subsidize inefficient document management.  

Users report that the continuous interruptions cause:  

  • Difficulty working/producing (33%), 
  • No time for deep or creative thinking (25%), 
  • Information overload (21%), 
  • Missed deadlines (10%), and 
  • Lost clients/business (5%). 


Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported that their employers have implemented policies or technologies to minimize distractions, while 73% of end users have adopted self-imposed techniques to help maintain focus.   

The number one corporate strategy used to discourage digital diversion is blocking access to public social networks such as Facebook and/or other non-business Web sites (48%). Other corporate techniques used to promote digital efficiency include tracking online usage patterns (29%), training (25%), deployment of an enterprise collaboration and social platform that aggregates information in a single window (13%), No Facebook Fridays (6%) and No Email Fridays (3%).   

In the case of end users, 51% try to minimize distractions by reading emails in batches, 28% by working outside the office, and 25% by disconnecting from IM/email and phone a few hours a day.   

Findings are based on a March 2011 uSamp survey of 515 email users working in sales, marketing, human resources or legal departments for U.S. companies of all sizes.