If business managers are wondering why employee productivity is so low, they might not have to look any further than Facebook.
Companies that allow employees to access Facebook during business hours are losing an averaging of 1.5 percent in total employee productivity, concludes a report from industry research firm Nucleus Research.
While the idea that Facebook is a productivity time-suck won't come as a surprise to many managers, the Nucleus Research report, based on a survey of 237 employees, quantifies just how bad the problem is.
Altogether, 77 percent of all the surveyed workers had a Facebook account and nearly two-thirds of them access the social networking site while at work.
Those workers that do access Facebook at work do so, on average, for 15 minutes every day, with some workers using the social networking site as much as two hours every day, according to the study.
Even more astounding is that 6 percent of employees access Facebook only while at work -- meaning that some workers have built their entire Facebook profile during work hours, according to the report.
For companies facing tight profit margins, the survey findings offer an argument for prohibiting the use of Facebook at work. "While it won't make you popular, restricting Facebook can reclaim lost productivity," said Rebecca Wettemann, research vice president at Nucleus Research, in a statement. "If your profitability is, say, 2 percent, this could be the difference between staying open or closing shop."
Of those using Facebook, 87 percent were unable to provide a clear business reason for doing so. The balance said they use Facebook for sales and marketing applications. That validates -- to a degree -- arguments from proponents that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can be used as business tools, providing a way to communicate with customers and business partners.
Some software vendors, including Oracle and Salesforce.com, have even been building links between their products and social networking sites. Earlier this month, for example, Microsoft unveiled a new "accelerator" that links Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Twitter.
But the Nucleus Research report makes it clear that the lost productivity through employee use of Facebook far outweighs any business benefits.
Aside from productivity issues, the use of Facebook at work also creates potential security problems because users sometimes circumvent controls and violate corporate communications policies.