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.
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.