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Business - Written by on Tuesday, September 11, 2007 13:31 - 3 Comments

Wasting time at work….

We all make a big deal out of Facebook, it’s place at the cusp of the social networking hierarchy, Web 2.0, etc… but isn’t it just a great way to waste time, check out what others have been up to, and find out if your girlfriend from grade 10 ever finished high school?

Following up on Anthony’s post on a recent study of the depth of Facebook “friendships,”  another study has been released that finds that Facebook use costs upwards of 233 million work hours every month – the equivalent of £130m ($264m USD) per day as a result of what they term “wasting time” on Facebook. The research, done by employment law firm Peninsula, is based on a survey of 3,500 UK companies, and concludes that “businesses need to take firm action on the use of social networks at work.”

So if you’re a boss, or better yet an employee, does Facebook actually lead to any productive activity at work? Or is it simply a drain on your organization’s productivity? For obvious reasons, I’ll omit my colleagues from this discussion.

Wasting time at work....


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Nick Bush
Sep 12, 2007 4:36

I think it’s entirely possible that Facebook use does currently ‘waste’ the time of workers who use it. It’s an application that is primarily social, with a large number of distracting applications. However we need to understand using Facebook is replacing other forms of ‘time-wasting’ social acitivity such as personal phone calls.

Companies should take a more sophisticated attitude to the use of social networking as part of a more spohisticated attitude to work in general. If companies employees’ output rather than the amount of time they spend at their desk it doesn’t really matter how long they spend ‘wasting time’ as long as the job gets done.

A more constructive policy might encourage employees to propose or demonstrate uses for Facebook that help the business – it’s potentially a good way of getting market data or the views of future customers for example.

Most large organisations will express frustration that their people don’t communicate across functions or departments so limiting the use of applications that might conceivably break down barriers seems short-sighted.

Danny Staple
Sep 13, 2007 2:52

It is really, like phone calls and personal email, a matter of drawing a line between use and abuse. Checking facebook a couple of times, maybe even drafting a response or two is not abuse, but constantly sitting on it is. Using facebook in lunch breaks or during a tea break (while smokers have their fag-break) is probably acceptable. Using it when simply bored or procrastinating is not. This is also (as mentioned above) best judged by an employees output. If the employee is sat on facebook and clearly has not been productive at all, it is just as likely that they would have been making phone calls, reading the news, picking their nose and doing personal email as well. Facebook is no exception and use of it should simply be treated with some discretion.

Our biggest barrier breaker at moment is lunchtime computer games.

Sep 13, 2007 22:57

True story: my facebook network tipped me off to the fact that a senior person on our team was quitting. She had updated her status, late Friday night to “moving onward and upward.” I saw that on Saturday morning and messaged her, found out she was leaving, then emailed my boss. I don’t know if this was a “productive” use of Facebook, but I found it powerful.

I think people who generate statistics about wasted time are just looking for an axe to grind. Unless your employees are running on hamster wheels to generate electricity, you cannot assume that time not on task is directly correlated to lost productivity. If people are bored, they will find something to fill the time.

With respect to the depth of Facebook friendships, or lack thereof, so what? Facebook is a weak-tie aggregator. The whole point is that you can be connected to every random person you might possible know. IF they do something interesting, you might be prompted to develop more of a friendship. But you don’t have to. That’s why it works.

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