Social Networks Don’t Waste Time, People Do.

Social Media Only the Latest Scapegoat for Productivity Loss?

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Social Media policies of well-known organizations often appear in the news with commentary throughout the Blogosphere, the Twitterverse, etc. There is an ongoing debate about just how restricted social networks should be when it comes to employee use.

Where do you stand on this debate? Share your thoughts.

, based in the UK, has released some research finding that 90% of IT Managers surveyed believe access to social networking site should be banned or restricted. 90%. That’s a lot. The managers surveyed came from across the UK public sector as well as private organizations.

The concerns addressed in this survey were the usual suspects: staff productivity, network security risks, and damage to the corporate reputation. Productivity was by far the top concern.

Is productivity your top concern with employee social network use? Discuss here.

Bloxx - Social Networking

Bloxx - Social Networking

The research found that not only are an increasing number of organizations completely banning staff access from social networking sites, but it is also quite common for staff to post disparaging remarks regarding other employees, their boss, or the company on social networks.

Over 22% of respondents don’t have any controls in place for staff accessing social networks. 35% of IT managers believe staff are spending over 30 minutes each per day on average accessing social networks. The companies are potentially providing an additional 16 days paid vacation for each employee, Bloxx says. Still, the research also shows that social networking is increasingly being used as a valuable business tool. Obviously access is required to take advantage.

"UK businesses really can’t afford to underestimate some of the risks of Social Networking use in the workplace," says Bloxx CEO Eamonn Doyle. "However, our view is that a complete ban is unrealistic and adopting this approach means that companies can’t obtain the potential business benefits of Social Networking and can alienate staff." Among Doyle’s suggestions are increased employee education, "well-thought-out" acceptable use policies, and the use of Web filtering. 

There are plenty of reasons why social network access shouldn’t be completely banned. We cover these reasons about every day. If  your company completely ignores social networks, you’re ignoring a tremendous amount of opportunities for marketing, customer service, traffic, sales, communication, etc.

Social networks are not going away. The popularity of specific ones may change in time, but the concept of social networking is going nowhere. It’s not even a new concept. Forums and email are pretty much social media for all intents and purposes. Social networks have recently been blamed for $2.25 billion in lost productivity. I wonder how much money lost productivity from personal email and general web surfing accounts for. I wonder how much employees simply talking to each other at the workplace has cost companies. That’s not necessarily online, but it’s still socializing. How have you handled email and general web use in the past?

Reputation issues are one thing. Security is another (and I think employee education plays a big role there) but as far as productivity, I really don’t see that the use of social networks is really that different than any other form of simply not working. People can spend their time using the phone for personal calls, but you probably haven’t completely banned the telephone. You may need that to communicate with customers, drive sales, etc. I’m sure you see my point.

Are social networks really the time wasters or is it just the people finding new ways to waste time? Share your thoughts here.

Related Articles:

Social Networks Blamed For $2.25B In Lost Productivity

How SHOULD Employees Use Social Media?

Some Brands Have Good Ideas For Social Media. Do You?

Social Networks Don’t Waste Time, People Do.
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  • http://www.socialsam.com mlmorgan

    Fighting the social media wave is nonsense. Instead, focus your energies on education and productive use of social media. Encourage your employees to tweet about appropriate events throughout their work day. Use their connections to broaden the reach of your message. Recruit them to participate, in behalf of the company, in their areas of expertise throughout the digital world, increasing your name recognition as well. There are a lot of ways to channel the social media world into a good marketing plan. Then, direct all those conversations back to a private social network in order to continue interested conversations inside your brand. Commercialize your conversations. If you do, social networking becomes an asset instead of a distraction.

    • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ James

      That is called a job.

      No employer should take the time out of their day to train all of thier staff on more productive ways to use facebook.

      Hire somebody who is professional PR and Marketing agent.

      The last thing business needs is lax attitude towards social media use. The majority of employees, whether we like it or not are not responsible enough to be productive on them. They are there for recreation and nothing more…

      • Don Forrester

        As a professional web dev/PR & marketing type, who works at a company where I’m the ONLY one who uses social networks, I can say that having a company culture that supports social networking is a good call. Believe me, I’m feeling the pain of not being in one; trying to get online marketing initiatives going is like boxing underwater, and it’s directly attributable to the fact that a)most people here don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention Twitter or Facebook, and b) I’m not the go-to expert on our product, and no product experts are assigned to or interested in using modern tools to connect with our customers.

        I REALLY WISH more people ‘wasted their time’ on facebook around here, because it would make my job a lot easier and increase MY productivity. That’s not to say I’m helpless here, because I’m not; There’s plenty I can do and am doing. But I’m not as potent as I could be at a company with a culture that could better harness my expertise.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ James

    Agreed… It is a scapegoat… But what does anybody expect with social network like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.

    They are social networks designed for recreation.

    Hopefully Linked in will change that and hopefully people will wise up and spot the difference.

  • http://www.controldatainc.com Collection agencies

    On the other side of things, employees that can relax and enjoy the internet 15 min a day, may be more productive and more alert than other employees that are forced to slave drive 8 hours a day without any type of release.

  • http://twitter.com/rhiebert88 R. Hiebert

    If I had one or more employees that were twitting and facebooking and ignoring her/duties I would be ticked and would likely write such a note in the performance file. On the other hand if I was his/her employer and saw and encouraged employees to promote the business and even make sales by using the social media as a marketing tool, I’d be pleased as punch and even create a performance contest to see who could bring in the most sales results with any of the popular social networks. If possible, and I think it would be smart to have a dedicated PC and designate a staff in the mail room where staff could concentrate on doing marketing on the popular sites.
    You can guess what products and opportunities would exude from my establishment.

  • steven

    I believe that if your employees are working with a computer all day long and there is net access that it would be no different from smokers going outside to take a quick break, just as long as it doesn’t totally destroy the employees productivity. If they get their work done why not?

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    The social websites are tools for people to use and if you don’t think they are worth using. Maybe your not looking at it like your teenage friends. My teens totally use it for the next party, where the next gig is etc.. they use it once a day sometimes or several times, even hours. Live bands get more popular with myspace accounts as they have low funds and it’s a good DIY option for them.

    So, if you have a box full of tools you’re not going to use each and every tool. But, don’t you think it’s a good idea to secure your company name in whatever is popular and create a quick FYI about your biz and just link to your main site from each social site.. hmm, all those unique IP’s

    Train your assigned staff members how to use them is important. There has to be rules and general guidelines in place how to interact with visitors, especially those who are kiddos, teens and also monitor for insured customer service. Not everyone will go to the main company website to contact you.. many will use a social site faster then sending an email to you. Social site, hide the email address.

    Hope that was a little helpful.

  • Guest

    Do you allow your employees to have their family and friends come into the office whilst they work?
    Do you allow them to hang out on the phone all day, whilst they work?
    Why don’t you have a TV on all day showing the latest soaps?

    Is it because it is distracting? that one loses focus? lose train of thoughts? becomes more focused on what is going on rather than what should be done?

    Scapegoat not.. unless we can change the way people are, we just have to accept, that people do dumb things, and quite often can not be held accountable to maintain the standards necessary, whilst they get distracted by their own personal and more fun and enjoyable outside distractions

  • http://hmamail.com Dracula

    If office staff need to update their blog, check their email or whatever it is they are feenin for, they can go to the break room on their time and do their thing. If their company doesn’t have an area/break room setup for just this purpose perhaps they should propose a memo.

    I vant to suck your bandvidth!

    • Ryan K

      I agree completely with Dracula I think that

  • http://www.figurinescollectors.com Collectible Angels Figurines

    I can understand the concerns of small business owners on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as far as employee productivity is concerned. As a business owner you certainly do not want your employees to spend all their work time surfing the web, tweeting or updateing their facebook wall.

    Social networks can have a positive impact on any business in terms of branding and traffic for as long as those networks are used by dedicated employees who are experts in this field.

  • http://www.thecisource.com Ellen Naylor

    I find that social media does cut into my productivity, so I need to work longer hours in order to take advantage of the connections and learning that social networks offer. Social networking is like any other form of networking in that it takes time to make those connections and to figure out how best to use the social networks that make sense for your business to use. It’s certainly here to stay so I think that employers need to sort out ways to allow employees to participate while also keeping an eye on the company’s security issues. The opinions of employees should be just that and explicity stated not as the company’s, unless these are the PR employees or those who the company designates to represent the company.

  • Jit Ray Chowdhury

    Firstly it depends on the business and it products. But I don’t think it should be banned but it needs to be controlled as people could get addicted and spend hours or may be the whole day on the social networking sites doing nothing that would add value to the organization.

    So to allow Social networking employees must be trained, motivated and monitored to do things that would help the business.

    If this kind of control is not possible through out the organization then a selected dept may be allow to access and be trained..

    If all these are not feasible then atleast everyone should be allowed access at the end of the day or lunch break. Maybe even after office hour…

  • Jit Ray Chowdhury

    Firstly it depends on the business and it products. But I don’t think it should be banned but it needs to be controlled as people could get addicted and spend hours or may be the whole day on the social networking sites doing nothing that would add value to the organization.

    So to allow Social networking employees must be trained, motivated and monitored to do things that would help the business.

    If this kind of control is not possible through out the organization then a selected dept may be allow to access and be trained..

    If all these are not feasible then atleast everyone should be allowed access at the end of the day or lunch break. Maybe even after office hour…

  • Guest

    IT Managers are the anti-christ to marketing or making money… if they ran the world, they would have us require a faxed with the customers signature in order to insure it is them…. or require quadruple Opt-in including social, phone number, date of birth, address, and underwear size in order to be added to a mailing list…

    Who would ask an IT Manager what is productive?

    • http://www.mouse-mat.com mat

      Only someone else in IT. Unfortunately IT managers in my experience have about as much idea about productivity as a penguin at the south pole.

      They are however damned useful when it comes to IT related matters, i.e why has the ruddy server crashed again???

      Social media is becoming a scourge in society, i had a facebook account but closed it when i realised what rubbish people post on there and just how pointless the site actually is, these days i do as i always have done… pick up the phone if i want to interact with a friend.

      • http://www.arpwn.com tREMor

        I’m an IT Administrator… those of us in IT are scientific, logical, organized and efficient. It’s the “idea” people in an organization that are the scourge of non-productivity. “Let’s sit around and think of stuff… ho-hum ho-hum.. a trip to grab a latte and then I think I’ll tweet about it, then I’ll post on Facebook to let everyone know I tweeted… then I’ll post on MySpace about the Facebook post about the Tweet I made. Look at me, I’m a viral marketing wizard!” Total BS. http proxy block *.* and throw the espresso machine OTFW. IT = Start a job, do the job, finish the job… Next Job. There is time to post pictures of my keg party on my blog after I punch out for the day.

  • http://twitter.com/dwight Guest

    No matter what people do to encourage their employees to work, it is always a matter of each person’s individual choice.

    Some people appreciate the opportunity to work hard and contribute to a team effort and their employer’s bottom line, others look for ways to avoid work and the creation of value in society at large.

    For employees who show responsibility and productivity, it is important to show them some leeway in how they conduct themselves as long as the company’s reputation or bottom line is not harmed.

    For employees who seek some way to avoid their responsibility and duties whether through the use of Social Media or other distractions, it is probably best to simply show them the door.

  • http://www.DesignThePlanet.com Peter

    My company works off billable time so if we are not billing a client’s project, the company does not get paid. Each of our designers, coders & programmers have minimum billables they need to achieve each day/week in order for the company to stay profitable. We look for short cuts and time-saving tips to maximize budgets and to streamline our non-billable, internal tasks.

  • http://www.digitalstroke.co.uk Dstroke7

    There are a few issues. Its a fact that UK employers have a tendancy NOT to trust their employees, which ultimately means that if staff are not allowed to do something, they will do it. It’s called human nature. Fact, a large proportion of UK employers do not look at a web site primarily for business, it’s a toy thingy with fancy graphics and photos etc. As for IT managers. Its not the fact they are IT Managers, it’s the fact they have some power. And sadly some do like to weild that power, because they can!

    What I would like to know is, how do companies in the US look on this issue. The evidence I see, is that they are more relaxed and DO take the web very seriously, unlike my countrymen.

  • http://doccampbell.wordpress.com Doc

    While I don’t think that social networking is the sort of activity one should be participating in while “on the clock” (with the possibly exception of some sales/marketing functions), my biggest concern would be the security risks inherent to social sites these days. More and more, sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace are being invaded by scammers, trying to harvest information and install malware.
    Better to simply block those sites from the company servers, and be safe. The IT department can readily modify permissions for those personnel that the company feels should have access to them.

  • sofakingdabest

    The man with the gold makes the rules.

  • Alan

    People should go to work, not to play around on social sites

    • Michael Danford

      Social Websites can be used not just socially but for business also “Wake Up”. There are alot of people on social websites especially people who love to spend money.

      • sher22

        Depending on what type of work you do, social networking can be an asset to many types of business. If you’re in a business where you need to advertise or get some form of ads circulating the social media is a good source. Of course people that are on social networks just to play around….well like all things, we must have discipline. Afterall, if it isn’t something you can use to help promote a business….then why else are people on it? If you need some help with idea’s for an internet based business you might want to check out this blog, they have great ideas for getting a start with an internet business, plus they’re always asking for your input too.

  • http://www.allterrainmedical.com Guest

    We are an e-commerce retailer and feel forced to post frequent “interesting” comments on social networking sites as it helps the rankings. Why??? I much rather work on the products, pricing, suppliers… I think it is an “unwisely waste of time”!

  • http://www.writtenbysumer.com Britt

    In regards to the following statement “The concerns addressed in this survey were the usual suspects: staff productivity, network security risks, and damage to the corporate reputation. Productivity was by far the top concern,” I DO agree that staff productivity can decline if they are frequently using social media during work hours. However, I believe that if you want your staff to be brand ambassadors for your business you should set guidelines as oppose to banning it altogether.

  • Mathu Thomas

    I have account on myspace, facebook or twitter or whatver social network sites. And go many hundreds of people in my list. When I look at them, none of them are my serious friends . To me it is just waste of my time. I know that is same for millions of people.

    Finally I reallised that it is better to make friends with whom I see them with my own eyes rather than be freidnd with someone whom I never seen in my entire lfe and wasting time on social networks..

    • http://www.youstencil.com Frank

      I agree. I wasted many months of potential productivity chasing the social media bandwagon.
      It got me nowhere and did not effect my bottom line whatsoever. The problem with social media as I see it is that it is not “Marketing media” it is “social media”. Somewhere to go and chat with friends. It is an activity to be carried out in ones spare time. The social media channels have been over-run with poeple that are attempted to use it as a marketing tool and really pisses a lot of people off. including myself. The hype about social media will die out and when it does, a lot of folks are going to be feeling pretty stupid. Social media is not and never will be a marketing channel.

    • http://www.arpwn.com tREMor

      I completely agree. SM generally has no place in the workplace outside of marketing and branding. I am the Network Administrator and Webmaster for a communications group that owns radio stations, an advertising agency and media production house. While SM has benefits in creating links to websites and generating hype over a product or promotion… for the most part using SM to market I have found it does little more than add an additional link for crawlers to index. People have already been “viral advertised” to death and have begun to tune it out. The time and energy spent on SM advertising far outweighs the benefits IMHO.

      Additionally, for those with access to social media sites within my organization, I have found that of the time spent doing productive promotional work, twice as much time or more is spent playing Mafia Wars and Farmville, or checking out someones keg party pics. Radio Disc-Jockeys and other people in the Internet Promotional department have access via user level web proxy… secretarial staff, accounting, even the production department have no reason to be there. And still all too often when I do a floor walk I see screens rapidly minimizing as I come around. I lean over someones shoulder and say “How did your fantasy football team do yesterday?”

      I guess the question is if you block Facebook… what about ESPN.com? What about the local TV and News websites? Google Mail. Amazon.com and ebay (often find people doing personal shopping in the office…) It’s a losing battle for those tasked with making sure employees focus on work at work… employees will slack off and not do work, it’s in their nature… I’m doing it right now writing this…

  • http://www.solutioncontent.com K Richard Douglas

    Employees are paid by their employer for only one thing; to do the work that they are employed to do. There is no argument or even discussion here. It is the employer’s dime and it is not the activity that employees should be engaging in. Of course it impacts productivity.

    In a small firm where social media and employee participation may be of real benefit to the firm, there may be a benefit to the employer that is verifiable. This is the one exception.

    Would I let employees engage in social media activities during lunch or breaks? Yes.

    Companies have to compete and any reduction in productivity or time management is a first-class ticket to the bottom of the competitive heap. An employees’ job and income and health benefits trump spending time doing non-work related activities. Everyone should be working to make their employer the best and most competitive company in their niche. That will ensure the future of the employee’s steady stream of income and benefits.

  • http://www.cheapcharlieshotels.com/ Cheap Charley

    I believe that there is value in Social Media otherwise I would not be spending time responding to this thread but I do feel that you need to have a plan going forward that uses IM as a tool in a multi pronged advertising and marketing strategy.

    So you need to identify where the cash out is and have everyone moving towards that goal, be it domination of a particular products or concepts that directly benefits the bottom line.

    Before the dot bomb I worked for a tech company and they were only interested in their own latest gizmos and did not embrace the new marketing channels and they got to be also rans to the ones that adopted the new media as part of their corporate culture.

    • Frank

      Your “belief” in the commercial value of social media is a total act of blind faith. I took a look at my twitter account after 4 months and ” not to my surprise”, around 80% of them were nothing more than blatant marketing messeges. The law of redundancy says that I will ignore most of those twitts, and so I do, and get back to real work like creating value products and services. Social media will out-live all marketing and branding attempts and everyone will feel stupid for thinking otherwise. This is what I “believe”.

  • http://blog.cornersix.com Jose Guerra

    Social networks, when analyzed from this perspective can have a professional use as a source of knowledge sharing and ways to do a better job, however they also are source of distraction.

    I think that they should be allowed without any limitations at the workplace. Organization should let employees have access to it during work hours to rip the benefits of it, but should also implement the mechanisms to monitor usage and track employee performance. This will allow them if there is a trend that relates both and then address it.

  • http://www.kleansy.com/ kleansy

    This is now the trend. But for employers, this is is a waste of time for their employees. The productivity will really decrease since this is the talk of the mouth even not online. So how much time they will waste? Online and offline.

    Though social networking is a tool may be used for marketing, traffic, communication, on the other side of it, there is always a negative impact with regards to the productivity and the concentration of such person being totally involved with such activity.

    But for younger ones, this is their tool to socialized. Too bad that if you are working, this is not good for you.

  • http://www.haritalar.web.tr Ugur Akg

    During global finance crises, i can’t understand, why people can waste their time, instead of beeing more productive?

  • http://aaacreditguide.com repairing your credit

    It is always a matter of each person’s individual choice and really does.

    It is also it is important to show them some leeway in how they will be able to conduct themselves as long as the company’s reputation or bottom line is not harmful.

  • http://cherylsgifts2go.com CherylsGifts2Go

    I am always on line advertizing my two on line stores Cheryl’s Gifts 2 Go. I find that visiting social sites gains me the exposure I need to let others know about my stores. I have met very many interesting people and perhaps, some prospective customers too. I enjoy meeting new people and, love finding out about their life on a day to day basis.

    What I did find out for myself is, you must discipline yourself. In other words, once you log in, see what others are doing, comment on their status, be friendly but, “don’t start playing the games” the site offers. You have to constantly remind yourself why you are there.

    I started playing the farm games and, I found myself on that particular social site more often than I really needed to be. Those apps are very addicting. It started running my day in fact. I had to check on my potatoes or, my animals or, whatever. Sure it was fun and, personally I loved it but, was I advertising my on line stores? No, I was playing games.

    So, like I said, you need to discipline yourself when it comes to social sites. I still play the farmtown but, plant the vegetables that take 3 days. I use it as an short escape from my marketing plan. It is great for a break!

  • http://www.ellefagan.com Elle Fagan

    I truly believe that, with some intelligence applied, Social Media answers the need for Cyberspace evolution.

    Cyberspace is still a relatively new and thrilling layer to Civilization. When it was new to most of us it was like the Wild West or Outer Space – eerily quiet, and yet dazzling, then a bit like the Wild West of olden days.

    If we are to play the game of life in Cyberspace, we need to be playing with a full deck. Social media adds the normal work and play interactions – and plenty of it – so that our experience in our life online is safer and better in every way.

    Of course if we do the wrong things or ‘not enough’ or ‘too much’ of it, the power and effect are not as good as we aim for.

    “Bottom line”
    We need to create and maintain a fully representational and effective world in Cyberspace and Social Media helps.

    I think that this aspect of it all is what has drawn us to social media and made it so popular that some overdo it.

    I am not surprised that “Tech-sperts” find fault with it – taken too far, the whole point of Social media can be lost and turn into Cyber JunkFood, instead of the clear and clean and amazing internet world we seek to create and maintain.

    Still, I advertise my things and share good thoughts at Social Media, because I feel that it is part of doing my part online to make CyberWorld a truly and fully EVOLVED place to be.

    Elle Fagan

  • http://www.siskiyouwebdesign.com Siskiyou Web Design

    It is no different than someone reading the newspaper while working, if it is not part of you job, you should not be doing it in the workplace. Now departments such as Customer Service and Marketing, they should be using it, but only in the way that it relates to the company and for personal use.

  • http://www.twitter.com/camiloolea Camilo Olea

    Great article Chris!

    I completely agree with you on this. SM is just being used as a scapegoat for lack of productivity, without closely analyzing what is really eating employees time.

    Keep the great content coming!

    Cheers from Cancun,Mexico.

    Camilo Olea

  • http://www.iimaonline.org James Laitinen

    I find it amazing for companies that block social media sites, really complicates the effort if you have other people that use these sites to communicate, share, and present information from an event or other activity and you don’t have access. Companies are scared because they don’t educate their staff, and don’t fully understand the benefits of being friendly and social.

    For example using facebook, gave me the opporutnity to connect directly with CEO’s of companies for a meaningful discussion. This really helped shorten the time and effort required to connect with people in the industry. Conversely, if your playing farmville all day then of course there is no benefit to the company!

    But principles in the company need to understand that by blaming the social media apps is not the answer, they need to blame their own structure and processes. Regardless if the person is playing online they are simply not engaged in the business and that is far more of a problem and a fundamental one at that. The waisting of human potential is a crime against humanity!

  • http://www.dotCOMReport.com DotCOMReport

    You’ll get out of social media what you want. If you spend hours socializing and playing games than sure you are wasting time that could be spent marketing. You can waste time with anything. I could easily spend hours going through my email. It’s what you choose to do with it that counts.

  • http://www.justwang.com lively jason

    Social media is definately a new way for losing productivity – just track the amount of time office workers spend time chatting online, little wonder why companies need to hire more to get the same job done!

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