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One in seven brings their Facebook addiction to work

IT security and control firm Sophos has revealed the results of a new survey examining the potential productivity implications for businesses that allow their employees to access Facebook during office hours.

Sophos polled 500 Facebook users to find out how often they accessed or checked the popular social networking site from work, and found that while 37.2 percent only visited the site once or twice a day, eight percent admitted using it up to ten times a day, and an astonishing 14.8 percent, approximately one in seven, confessed to being logged onto Facebook almost permanently during their working day.

"The results show that more than one fifth of these Facebook users are actually Facebook abusers. They're seriously struggling to tear themselves away from the website when they should be concentrating on their jobs - disturbing news for all organizations that are still allowing employees uncontrolled access," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"Several trade unions have spoken out in the site's defence, suggesting that employers should put more trust in their workforce, and clearly the majority of people are using the site in moderation. The problem is that a 20 percent addiction rate equates to an awful lot of loafing, while there's also the likelihood that the abusers could ruin it for the other rule-abiding users."

According to Sophos, the survey results add weight to growing fears that sites such as Facebook are having a hugely detrimental impact on business productivity.

Employment law firm Peninsula recently estimated that 233 million hours are lost every month in the UK alone as a result of employees using social networking sites.

Sophos notes that Lloyds TSB, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs are amongst the organizations that have been reported to have already blocked access to Facebook for their users.

"So far there seems to have been a furore at every organisation that has decided to block Facebook access, but there's a real danger that if companies don't take action, this problem could spiral further out of control," continued Cluley.

"Many companies are now aware that Facebook brings with it a series of security concerns, particularly the risk of employees inadvertently revealing sensitive or confidential information to the wider world. When combined with the threat of an accompanying productivity slump, they may well decide that social-networking at work is simply more trouble than it's worth."

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.