Social Media Vs. Water Cooler: Time Sink Showdown

Surprise: Survey finds that we waste more work time at the water cooler than on Facebook and social sites.

Debra Donston-Miller

August 20, 2012

2 Min Read
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Many organizations that have chosen to block public social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have done so to prevent employees from wasting time on the sites. According to a recent study, these companies might do better to cordon off the water cooler instead.

Online database service company TrackVia recently conducted a study in conjunction with Amplitude Research among a nationwide panel of business and consumer professionals. The study is based on 300 surveys completed by non C-level employees throughout the United States who use computers and software as part of their daily jobs.

When asked what the biggest cause of wasted time is during the work week, only 4.7% of respondents named checking Facebook, Twitter, or other personal social media accounts. In contrast, 14% of respondents said talking with co-workers accounted for the bulk of their wasted work time, while 11% named computer glitches, and 9% cited Internet surfing. Interestingly (or maybe disturbingly), 6% said that "addressing misunderstandings" with co-workers as their number-one time waster at work.

[ Read 5 Social Skills IT Pros Must Have. ]

The survey also gauged respondents' feelings about the usefulness of formal rules, policies, and procedures at their workplace. Fifteen percent said procedures increased productivity somewhat, and 4% said they reduced productivity somewhat.

When it comes to social media, more companies have determined that the benefits far outweigh the risks. They also have found that, as with acceptable use policy around general Internet use, social media policy is key to protecting the company, as well as to encourage employees to use it safely and productively. Many companies, for example, include not only what employees should not be doing on social media sites but also what they should be doing.

The TrackVia-Amplitude research also included some interesting data about more traditional social interaction—in-person meetings. Eleven percent of the survey takers said meetings were the number-one time waster at work. Among those who spend time in meetings, 37% said at least half of the time in meetings was wasteful. In the all-or-nothing camp, 8% of respondents said meetings are 100% productive, and 1% said meetings were 100% unproductive.

Maybe fewer meetings and more social networking would help.

What are the biggest time wasters at your organization? Is the use of social networking seen as a time sink or a business booster? We welcome your comments below.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.

Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)

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