Online Communities at Work: Time Killers or Time Savers?

Ann All

While businesses are finding some uses for social networks such as Facebook, including as an employee recruitment tool, the Daily Mail reports that more than 70 percent of companies in London have banned or limited access to such sites due to concerns over lost productivity.


Among the companies: British Gas, Lloyds TSB, Credit Suisse and Dresdner Kleinwort. (Wow, who knew finance types were so social.)


London apparently recently passed Toronto as the city with the most Facebook users; British users are believed to spend, on average, 191 minutes a month on the site.


Other British companies are dealing with the problem by restricting employee access to such sites during designated times such as lunch hour.


The problem isn't confined to the U.K. According to a Reuters report about a recent survey, 34 percent of respondents admit to personal Internet use at work, making it the single biggest time-waster, followed by offline socializing with co-workers (20.3 percent) and conducting personal business (17 percent).


The average employee fritters away 1.7 hours of a typical 8.5 hour working day on such activities, according to That's an improvement from the 2.09 hours reported by slacking survey respondents in 2005.'s chief compensation officer attributes the drop to an improved economy: "...there's more business, more work available and less time to sit around wondering what you are going to do with your day," he tells Reuters.


(We wonder whether the publicity given to similar, previous surveys has made employees a bit less willing to cop to idle Web surfing and other time-killing activities.)


Social networking does sometimes result in increased productivity -- at least for some IT pros. A full 100 percent of U.S. IT professionals surveyed by King Research say they derive professional benefit from online communities or forums geared to their needs, reports The Register.


Eighty-two percent of respondents say such sites help them shave the time spent solving system administration problems by an hour a week, and a third of respondents say they save at least three hours a week.


(It's worth noting that the research was sponsored by system management software developer Kace, which supports its own community site called Appdeploy Live.)

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