Facebook, Twitter Drain Business Productivity: Survey

Facebook is no friend of business productivity. A survey finds workers are easily distracted by social media platforms.

The proliferation of collaboration and social tools designed to increase productivity is actually costing businesses millions of dollars per year in lost productivity, according to a survey of more than 500 employees in U.S. businesses of all sizes conducted by online market research firm uSamp (United Sample) and commissioned by social email software provider harmon.ie.

Nearly 60 percent of work interruptions now involve either using tools like email, social networks, text messaging and IM, or switching windows among disparate standalone tools and applications. In fact, 45 percent of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53 percent waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions, the report found.

That hour per day translates into $10,375 of wasted productivity per person annually, assuming an average salary of $30 per hour. That is more than the average U.S. driver will spend this year to own and maintain a car, the report noted. For businesses with 1,000 employees, the cost of employee interruptions exceeds $10 million per year.

"This survey paints a picture of a highly distracted workplace with a particular irony: information technology that was designed at least in part to save time is actually doing precisely the opposite. The very tools we rely on to do our jobs are also interfering with that mission. We're clearly seeing what psychologists call -online compulsive disorder' spill over from our personal lives to the work environment," said Yaacov Cohen, co-founder and CEO of harmon.ie. "For all of us, it's time to take back the Internet and find ways to control our digital addiction."

While traditional activities such as phone calls, talking with coworkers, and ad hoc meetings account for 43 percent of work interruptions today, the lion's share of distractions are now electronically based. Users reported getting sidetracked in email processing (23 percent), switching windows to complete tasks (10 percent), personal online activities such as Facebook (9 percent), instant messaging (6 percent), text messaging (5 percent) and Web search (3 percent).

The report also found multiple devices on the desktop contribute to the problem, with 65 percent of respondents reporting that they utilize up to three additional monitors and/or mobile devices simultaneously with their main computer screen as they work.

Users also spend an average of 2-1/2 hours per week trying to find the documents they need in multiple local, corporate and cloud repositories. That adds up to 16 workdays annually, costing businesses $3,900 per $30 per hour employee per year to subsidize inefficient document management. The problem is exacerbated by the use of email attachments instead of posting documents to a central repository where they can be easily located, the report noted.

Despite the attachment to their digital tools and devices, both companies and end users recognize the productivity challenges created by these technologies and have implemented a variety of tools and strategies in an attempt to limit digital-related disruptions: 68 percent of respondents reported that their employers have implemented policies or technologies to minimize distractions, while 73 percent of end users have adopted self-imposed techniques to help maintain focus.