Social "Notworking's" Costs

July 27, 2009 ( - While employers seem increasingly willing to allow workers to access social networking sites like Facebook while at work, there is a productivity cost, according to a new study.

That cost isn’t much – the survey, based on interviews with 237 randomly selected US office workers by Nucleus Research – found that employers are losing an average of 1.47% in total employee productivity. On the other hand, while the average user spends 15 minutes of work time on Facebook each day, some employees report spending upwards of two hours.

More than three-quarters (77%) of the survey respondents had a Facebook account, and more than half (61%) accessed that account during work hours. On the other hand, one in every 33 employees had built their entire Facebook profile during work time, and roughly the same number of respondents uses Facebook only when they are at work.

Additional study findings:

  • The vast majority (87%) of those using Facebook at work could not define a clear business reason for doing so.
  • Of those who do access Facebook at work, 6 percent never access Facebook anywhere else

An E-mail Alternative

Beyond its impact on productivity, Nucleus also noted the growing use of Facebook as an alternative e-mail platform. “Although not necessarily bad, Facebook isn’t monitored and managed by an organization like e-mail is,” noted the report. “Savvy younger users recognize that traditional e-mail and even personal accounts like gmail can be monitored by corporate IT, while Facebook messages aren’t. For organizations that have invested in security software to secure sensitive information and limit their transmission via e-mail, Facebook can help users circumvent those controls, opening up the potential to violate corporate communication policies.

Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research for Nucleus, said that companies facing tight margins and financial pressures cannot afford to lose any productivity, however small it may seem. “While it won’t make you popular, restricting Facebook can reclaim lost productivity. If your profitability is say 2%, this could be the difference between staying open or closing shop,” she said.