Another survey about the cost of social network use is doing the rounds today, this one suggesting that workers’ use of Twitter and other social networks costs the UK economy £1.34bn in wasted time.

As with many of these types of surveys, on social network use during work, or using worktime for Christmas shopping, fails to take shrinking lunchtimes into account, as well as the potential benefits of having employees using Twitter.

IT and technology firm Morse commissioned the report (covered in The Telegraph this morning), and labels the use of social networks in work time as a ‘productivity black hole’.

It calculates, based on a survey of 1,460 office workers, that an average of 40 minutes per week is spent on personal use of Twitter, meaning a loss on £1.38bn for the economy.

Taken in isolation this figure may seem surprising, but it fails to take other factors into account.

For one thing. the lunchtimes of the UK’s workers have been shrinking over the past few years, with the average lunch break now just 28 minutes, which suggests that a lot of employees are working through their lunch breaks, and giving back more than the 40 minutes per week lost to Facebook and Twitter.

Also, the postive effects of social network use for UK business are not taken into account. I’d like to see a report that calculates how much the UK economy benefits from this. We can certainly vouch for its effectiveness at Econsultancy, as our Twitter Case Study explains. 

According to the survey, three quarters of the office workers surveyed said their employer had not
given them any specific guidelines on how to use Twitter, which suggests that some businesses need to get some policies in place.

The DSGi employees’ Facebook group, which contained derogatory remarks about customers, is an example of what can happen, and businesses need to lay down clear guidelines for usage.

They should also look at some examples of how social media can benefit their businesses before simply cracking down on employees who use it during working hours. Of course, there will be some who are merely wasting time, but there may be others who could help companies how to use social media more effectively.