Social Networking Costs UK Economy Billions

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Social networking sites such as Facebook are Twitter are costing the British economy billions of pounds a year in lost working time

Social networking sites such as Facebook are Twitter are potentially costing the British economy up to £14 billion a year in lost working time, accoding to a new survey from job sites network MyJobGroup.co.uk.

Its survey of 1,000 people found that nearly 6 percent are spending over an hour each day on social media whilst at work, amounting to more than one eighth of their entire working day. When this percentage figure is extrapolated out to include the entire UK population, it means that two million of the UK’s 34 million-strong workforce, are using Facebook or Twitter during work time.

Growing Trend

The survey also revealed that more than half (55 percent) of the UK’s working population now accesses social media whilst at work, with a third of those (roughly six million) spending more than 30 minutes on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Myspace.

This UK-specific survey highlights a global trend, after a report from Nielsen recently revealed that social networking sites and online games are surpassing web portals like Yahoo and email in usage terms. Nielsen surveyed 200,000 users from June 2009 to June 2010 and found that the amount of time users spent on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the cadre of social sites grew from 16 percent to 23 percent.

But back in the UK, MyJobGroup.co.uk warned that SMEs are likely to be hardest hit by the drop in productivity, although it did not expand on why – presumably because, unlike large enterprises, SMEs are less likely to monitor the online behaviour of their workers.

And it said that many respondents denied that social media is affecting their efficiency, despite the current fragile recovery of the UK’s economy. Only 14 percent of respondents admitted to being less productive as a result of social media and 10 percent even claimed social media had made them more productive.

“Our results clearly show that UK workers are spending increased time whilst at work on social media networks, which, left unchecked, could have negative repercussions on the productivity of many companies across the country,” said Lee Fayer, managing director of Myjobgroup.co.uk.

“Whilst we’re certainly not kill-joys, people spending over an hour per day in work time on the likes of Facebook and Twitter are seriously hampering companies’ efforts to boost productivity, which is more important than ever given the fragile state of our economy.”

No Support For Ban

But what to do about it? There was still widespread resistance to banning access to social networks at work, with over two thirds (68 percent) advocating some form of access during working hours. Only one third wanted sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube barred during work time.

The obvious answer is simply to ask staff to use social networking sites only during their lunch hour, if it is used for personal and not work-related reasons.

“Companies would do well to monitor use of social networking sites during work hours and ensure that their employees are not abusing their freedom of access to these sites,” added Fayer.

But despite the bad press that social networking sometimes gets over productivity, privacy and security issues, many feel that social networking can be used in a positive way for both businesses and life in general.

For example, Gartner recently said that consumers increasingly rely on information gleaned from social networks to make decisions about new purchases, but companies have been slow to switch-on to this phenomenon.

And in January almost 40 percent of Facebook users polled in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia said that they had donated money, food or clothing to help the disaster relief efforts in Haiti, after it was hammered by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 12 January.

In July Facebook said that it now has more than 500 million registered users, just six years after it was first launched.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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