Social Networks Distract at Work. Seriously.

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You know all those awesome social media tools that are supposed to empower employees and transform your businesses? It seems it's not necessarily working out that way, according to a new survey commissioned by social email software vendor

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Clearly there are some powerful advantages for businesses that allow and even actively deploy social media tools in the workplace. But there is a downside that often is ignored and denied by the most vociferous social media cheerleaders.

(Also see: IBM study: Many companies botching social media)

The survey, conducted by market research firm uSamp, concludes that 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, "nearly 60% 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% of employees work only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted, and 53% waste at least one hour a day due to all types of distractions."

So what does it all mean? Well, it means...wait a minute, four of my Twitter friends just tweeted something. I'll be back after I check it out...

OK, where was I? I was talking about social media or something. Oh yeah, concludes that wasted hour a day translates into $10,375 of lost productivity per worker each year, based on an average salary of $30 per hour. For businesses with 1000 employees, these interruptions cost more than $10 million annually.

Which, when you think about it...hang on, I'm being texted...

I'm back. Here's Yaacov Cohen, chief executive of, putting this all in perspective:

"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.

The biggest distractions, according to the more than 500 U.S. employees surveyed, are checking email (23 percent)...

Which reminds me...don't go away now.

...switching windows to complete tasks (10 percent), personal online activities such as Facebook (9 percent)...

I really love my Facebook friends. If any of you readers want to "friend" me later, just let me know!

...instant messaging (6 percent), text messaging (5 percent), web searching (3 percent), blah blah blah. OK, this is taking up way too much of my time. I'm probably missing some good stuff on Groupon.

This story, "Social Networks Distract at Work. Seriously." was originally published by ITworld.

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