Facebook Is a Big Employee Distraction, but Is It All Bad?

Of all the bits and bobs of news about Facebook, this latest really should be a surprise to no one: According to a survey by Nucleus, it's a huge distraction for office workers. What is interesting is just how big a distraction it seems to be.

Facebook

The study (amusingly titled "The Cost of Social Notworking") examined specific details about how office workers use the immensely popular social networking app. And it reveals that some 77% of those workers surveyed had a Facebook account. Of those people, 66% accessed their profiles while at work, with some 6% exclusively doing so while on company time. That should raise alarm bells in many an employer's minds, particularly when you learn that 87% of Facebook-using employees can't come up with a legitimate work-related reason for visiting the site, and the average access time is 15 minutes. For a small company of 200 workers that fifteen minutes multiplies up to 50 working hours--one whole manweek--lost to Facebook each and every day.

The knock-on effects on revenue loss are incalculable, because they vary with the workload of each employee, and the fact that revenue rate is different between companies. But if you consider the hundreds of millions of employees in the U.S. and Europe, each logging on to chat or for a quick game of Pirates vs Ninjas, the money concerned is going to tally up to billions of lost dollars per day.

In other words, in the current grim financial climate Facebook could well portrayed as The Great Downturn Facilitator.

Or is it? I wouldn't be so quick to judge it that way. Sure an employee using the service is obviously not doing their day job, which is what they're paid to do. But accessing Facebook is all about learning what your friends are up to and playing casual games: Both of these could be viewed as bolstering an office worker's cheerfulness levels, which may actually contribute to increasing their office productivity.

There's even a way for companies to leverage off the Facebook habit: By barring access to the site through company Internet gateways you'll be setting a stern, parental example that merely pisses off your employees, and cuts off access for legitimate business networking or promotional uses. But if you permit Facebook access, acknowledging it has a role to play in today's digitally-connected world, but ask your employees to be extremely sensible about how much time they devote to it, then you'll earn employee loyalty points, and may end up with a happier workforce. It's worth experimenting with.

[Nucleus Research] Image via The Guardian

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8 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @Manjit. Ah...Hamlet. Not one of my faves, but fabulous nonetheless. You're right, of course, it's all a matter of how you choose to look at this.

  • Lexus Lambert

    Facebook is one thing, but I personally think Twitter is bigger concern. People tends to get addicted to it too much.

  • Manjit Syven Birk

    Kit, Shakespeare summed it up best when he wrote "there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so".

    M.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Greg. Nice analogy! It's similar to the "office phone for private calls" thing--as long as it's no one abuses the system, I think most workplaces tolerate it, on the understanding it keeps the staff happy and useful.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Brian--totally agree with you.
    @Freddy--Fascinating. As someone who works accessing the net 95% of the time, if all of it was work-related I'd go bonkers. We even use Facebook for legitimate promotional purposes, so I don't feel guilty logging on. Love the term "bio break" btw.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    Prohibition: it doesn't work for alcohol, and it won't work for facebook

    --
    @wikiworld
    Digg: Wikiworld

  • Freddy Nager

    Brian Kung is right. There's a study by the University of Melbourne that claims "workers who engage in ‘Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing’ (WILB) are more productive than those who don’t."
    http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/...

    I'm not sure about the acronym WILB, but I certainly wouldn't want my employees to be non-stop drones interrupted only by lunch and bio breaks.

  • Brian Kung

    Furthermore, what's to say that they won't spend the time playing flash games or twiddling their thumbs if not on Facebook? The assumption that everyone is 100% productive during their workweek is flawed. What, after all, is the perfect worker doing all the time? No one can answer that.

    Workers are people...and people need down-time, fun, and social interaction to remain happy and productive.