Be honest: If your boss were to burst into your office and demand to see your computer history would you be a little nervous? Would he or she find that most of your history was made up of Facebook hits or Twitter feeds?

Our friends across the Atlantic decided to do a study of 1,000 workers to see how much time they spent on social media websites. The British employment website MyJobGroup.co.uk found that out of the workers polled, 6% spent more than an hour a day on social media sites. If you were to apply this to Britain’s 34 million-person workforce, nearly 2 million workers were wasting more than an hour of their eight-hour work days.

Lee Fayer, the managing director of MyJobGroup said in a statement released by the company:

“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. 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. 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.”

Some Employees Consider Social Networking a Positive

The site calculated that nearly 14 billion British Pounds, or $22.16 billion is lost due to employees’ time spent on social networking sites. The research also showed that 55% confessed that they access the social networking sites during office hours. Only 14% admitted to being less productive as a result of social media while 10% said they actually became more productive because of the social networking tools.

Two-thirds of respondents voiced their resistance to the prohibition of such sites at work. Their stance demonstrates the important relationships being formed through social media in Britain. Although these figures are strictly related to the British workforce, there have been studies and articles published in America on the subject as well. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article not long ago titled “A Facebook-Free Workplace? Curbing Cyberslacking” a few months back featuring the effects of “cyber-slacking” at work.

When media outlets reported that Google’s playable Pac-Man logo cost businesses $120 million in productivity, few people believed the steep figure and many brought up valid arguments in the comments sections of various publications. These arguments included:

• Many Americans are working longer hours and spending less time at the “water-cooler.”

• Conversations typically held in the break room are now being moved to the web.

• Fewer people are taking smoke breaks, some people work from home.

• The work environment is changing and some say social networking is a part of this change.

What do you think of Fayer’s suggestion for companies to monitor the use of their employees on social networking sites? Is it fair? Do you spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

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  • For “information workers”, Twitter is definitely a good tool to improve productivity, essentially because it brings knowledge on their desktop quickly, and that brings value to their employers. For other kind of employees, companies have to recognize that if time is spent on online social networks, it may be because of the lack of social experience at work, and also because managers don't manage enough

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    The basic problem that the manager faces is a loss of productivity. If productivity can actually be measured, then it should be, and it should be monitored. Regardless of the cause, exceptional productivity should be rewarded and poor productivity should be punished. Then, regardless of the means of wasting time and productivity, regardless of the time “wasted”, the employees themselves are the ones filtering their own internet consumption habits (or telephone calls, or faxes, or time spent -ahem- in the storeroom). Just as importantly, it shouldn’t matter how the employee achieves that productivity. It’s not at all uncommon for highly productive employees to produce high quality work in spite of the fact that they spend lots of time apparently not working. Salespeople often create better sales contacts at the bar than they do on the phone at work. CEOs often create better business opportunities on golf courses than they do in boardrooms. Programmers often get better ideas in the shower than sitting at their computers. Mechanics can find better solutions to problems on community forums run and populated by amateur enthusiasts, than they can get on official company websites. And so on.

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    Just as importantly, it shouldn’t matter how the employee achieves that
    productivity. It’s not at all uncommon for highly productive employees
    to produce high quality work in spite of the fact that they spend lots
    of time apparently not working.