Looking Beyond the ‘Twitter Costs Businesses $2.25 Billion’ Headline

BBC News reports on a new survey commissioned by a U.K. IT services firm which concludes that “staff who use Twitter and other social networking sites while at work are costing UK businesses £1.38bn every year.”

Nearly 60% of the 1,460 office workers surveyed said they use social networking sites for personal reasons during the workday.

The survey was sponsored by Morse, a London-based IT consulting and services firm. Here’s the press release from Morse. Excerpts (and my comments):

On average those people were spending 40 minutes on these sites each week, equating to just under a full working week being wasted each year by employees using social networking sites at work.

Doesn’t that really come out to an average of eight minutes a day per employee? I know in tough times that productivity is critical, but this number hardly represents a huge problem.

The time wasted could even be higher as the research also revealed that on average office workers think that their colleagues spend nearly an hour (59 mins) each day at work on social networking sites. This clearly shows the productivity strain that such online behaviour is having on businesses.

It does? I’d say it’s an entirely speculative metric (though I get the “projection” aspect of it).

When it comes to usage policies it is clear many businesses have some way to go, as of those surveyed just over three quarters (76%) said that their employer hadn’t issued them with specific guidelines with regards to using Twitter. Without guidelines and usage polices businesses are leaving themselves wide open to a reduction in productivity, brand damage and security risks.

Now we’re getting somewhere. It’s up to organizations to create social media policies and guidelines. Sure, some workers might ignore the policies anyway, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. (See You Need a Social Media Policy. No, Really, You Do.)

[D]espite a third of office workers admitting that they had seen sensitive information posted on social networks, overall 84% felt that it should be up to them as to what they post online. This indicates that guidelines are either being poorly communicated or are not strict enough.


Is Morse suggesting that organizations try to ban Twitter and other social networking sites from their networks? Fortunately, no:

[I]f implemented correctly, the use of social networks can help facilitate closer ties with employees and customers. Therefore, businesses need to strike the right balance between engagement and productivity when it comes to employee usage.