This makes some sense when one considers that providers of CRM applications, such as Oracle, Salesforce.com and RightNow, integrate with Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools to enable employees to improve sales, marketing and customer service activities. Nucleus is working on a similar office productivity study for Twitter.
Facebook is also subsuming traditional Outlook applications as the e-mail delivery application of choice for some users in some cases, Nucleus found. The problem with this, of course, is that Facebook isn't governed by corporate regulations and etiquette rules. Individual users decide what content gets shared via e-mail, and IT administrators cannot see what employees are sharing. Nucleus noted:
"Savvy younger users recognize that traditional e-mail and even personal accounts like Gmail can be monitored by corporate IT, while Facebook messages aren't. For organizations that have invested in security software to secure sensitive information and limit their transmission via e-mail, Facebook can help users circumvent those controls, opening up the potential to violate corporate communication policies."
This can get out of control. Nucleus found one doctor friending his patients and a hospital where nurses shared patient information with other nurses, which exposed them and their employers to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations.
Ultimately, Nucleus cautioned that while some users in these business environments might see their productivity increased by Facebook and other social networks, companies should weigh the business benefit of lead generation or responding to comments on social networking sites about their operations or products against the potential productivity loss of all employees with access to those sites.
However, it is also important to note that 237 subjects is a small sample of the now over 250 million users of Facebook. ReadWriteWeb didn't like Nucleus' findings and countered them with results from the University of Melbourne, where researcher Brent Coker surveyed 300 workers.
Coker found that people who took small breaks between tasks were 9 percent more productive than their colleagues who did not. "It gives them a chance to reset their concentration," Coker said.
That means companies that block access to social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook could actually be inadvertently decreasing employee productivity.