Indian office workers are spending more than 12 percent of their workday on social networking sites, according to a new survey from the country's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Is that bad? Good? Does it have no affect on anything whatsoever?
Since the emergence of Twitter and Facebook, people have been tossing around the words "lost productivity" with increasing frequency. In October, IT services company Morse issued a survey that claimed U.K. office workers were costing their employers $2.2 billion a year in lost productivity with their social networking habits.
The 1,460 employees surveyed in the Morse study reported that they were spending 40 minutes a week using social media in the office -- a number that Morse then used to come up with its $2.2 billion sum. But according to Morse, staffers were probably spending more time on the sites than they admitted, considering they said their colleagues were putting in nearly an hour a day.
And an hour a day is about what Indian information workers are spending on the sites, according to India's Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM).
So let's say that the one-hour average is accurate and applies, more or less, on a global basis. U.S., Europe, India, Brazil -- we're all spending an hour of our workday networking online. Is this actually causing some sort of worldwide productivity crisis?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that we'll be just fine. As social media proponents point out, there are honest-to-goodness business reasons to spend time on the sites. As I wrote last month, a survey by Business.com found office workers attending business-related Webinars, reading reviews of business products and services and participating in online business communities.
On the other hand, those weren't exactly the reasons that the Indian office workers gave for visiting social networking sites. No, those employees, 82 percent of whom have a Facebook account, cited purposes like "keeping in touch with friends," "fun" and "keeping in touch with classmates."
That goes along with a July survey from Nucleus Research, which found that 87 percent of office workers couldn't name a business-related purpose for their at-work Faceboook usage. Nucleus said that Facebook was to blame for a 1.5 percent decrease in productivity.
I think we can all acknowledge that a big part of social networking isn't about performing your business role, and is more about, well ... socializing. But have all the hand-wringing analysts and consultants forgotten that socializing is something that, shudder, people have always done at work?
It's been said repeatedly that employees need to take a break from work to keep their focus. And there's no reason that social networking, even when it's being used for non-business purposes, should be viewed any differently.
In fact, a study released earlier this year by the University of Melbourne found that employees who spend a reasonable amount of time (less than 20 percent of their work hours) browsing the Web in the office are 9 percent more productive than those who don't."Firms spend millions on software to block their employees from watching videos on YouTube, using social networking sites like Facebook or shopping online under the pretense that it costs millions in lost productivity," said Brent Coker, a professor in Melbourne's department of management and marketing. "However, that's not always the case."