Breaking: Twitter costs British economy less than people who gaze out the window

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At long last, an iPhone quiver

There we go again.

The Telegraph has published an article about some survey which claims social networks such as Twitter are costing British businesses at the very least £1.38 billion (approx. $2.25 billion) a year.

Shocking findings, I daresay!

Morse, the IT services and technology company who commissioned the survey, said the true cost to the economy could actually be substantially higher than the £1.38bn estimate.

How about we settle for a gazillion?

Where does that number come from, you ask? The £1.38bn estimate is based on a survey that showed more than half of office workers use social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook for personal use during the working day, and admit wasting an average of 40 minutes a week each. A veritable productivity hole, adds a Morse consultant who – like so many before him – fails to capture that there’s a difference between being productive and ‘not wasting time’.

I’d like to see more research in this field, but more focused on office workers who spend the majority of their day staring out the windows, yapping about last night’s television highlights with coworkers in the coffee and/or smoking room, attending meetings where no decision or progress gets made, or simply working on stuff that’s not particularly considered to be productive for their employer, the British economy as a whole, or the rest of planet Earth.

What I hate about these surveys is how they focus on what people seem to be doing when they are supposedly ‘wasting their time’ and singlehandedly destroying the British economy with all their tweeting and liking on Facebook, instead of why people are seemingly not motivated enough to leave the social interaction for those periods of time outside of the official business hours. My guess: more enticing headlines this way.

Maybe it’s just the concept of ‘business hours’ that isn’t something the new generation of office workers is apt at dealing with, considering they grew up living in a fragmented world where social media make up integral parts of their lives that cannot simply be turned off. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing or a management problem, but one thing it is most definitely not: the fault of Twitter or Facebook.

Or do you really think that guy next to you who spends hours staring at his Facebook news feed is suddenly going to be way more productive when the IT department blocks access to the site?

One more survey to ignore, move along now, nothing to see here.

(Hat tip to Daniel Joerg – on Twitter)

  • Stefano Bernardi

    “One more survey to ignore, move along now, nothing to see here.”


    Office hours are so ’95, and Twitter is “office hours” material for us anyways.

  • Tuan

    ah right. and how much money did they waste on this ‘research’?

    • Robin Wauters

      Unknown, but since it was commissioned by a company that “drives cost and efficiency improvements throughout the technology infrastructure and IT asset lifecycle”, I think the appropriate question is: who has most to gain by feeding the press enticing headlines based on non-research?

      • Chris


    • mike

      “ah right. and how much money did they waste on this ‘research’?”
      Survey cost : £1.10b
      Money lost because of Twitter at work : £0.28b
      Total of money loss because of Twitter : £1.38b

  • Srirangan

    If not for Twitter/Facebook, employees would find (have found) other ways to waste time.

    On the bright side, with these distraction you have a chance of accurately quantifying the amount of time wasted.

    – Sri

    • robrob

      indeed, if locked in a metal box with the options of work, picking my nose or scratching myself, you can damn well bet I’ll go gold digging at least a couple of times a day.

      There are people who spend their life not doing work, and normally a quick check of browser logs will show them up pretty quickly. But most companies just don’t care, if you’re getting the work done you’re paid to do, they’re generally smart enough not to suddenly cut off every possible thing that could consume time outside of work. That would be the really expensive thing to do, because soulless zombies aren’t good at thinking on their feet.

    • Sean

      While there are time wasters out there, the whole concept of ‘time wasting’ by distracting one’s mind is hogwash.

      People aren’t robots and therefore can’t do ‘work’ constantly with regimented ‘breaks’. We just aren’t wired that way, doesn’t matter how long you can concentrate on something or how well you multitask.

      You just can’t. The End.

  • Lee Richmond

    I’m sorry but these statistics are a complete load of nonsense, surely what is really costing is whoever people are paying to sit down for weeks on end to think these things up, if anything I find twitter extremely useful during my working day I’m always finding out about new blog posts and tutorials regarding new web development and design techniques, which are invaluable to my job.

  • jeff

    As a past employer of many people in many different countries, I have found the only way to measure and ensure productivity is through goal setting and results ( = rewards). However many bosses see it as hard work setting KPI´s and would rather just ban things that could distract in the hope of their employees will deliver results for them with a limited amount of input from their side.

  • Andrew

    To be fair, most jobs are boring. That’s just life. It’s not possible for every job to be so wonderful and interesting that even the lure of Twitter isn’t enough to tear people away from their tasks.

  • Toni Anicic

    If I didn’t use social networks, how would I find clients? :S

  • korto

    Is reading about this survey bad for the economy too? Cause I just wasted 5 minutes reading about it.

  • 5ste

    I sell rugs, i may write to The Telegraph saying UK companies £10billion a year each if they have a rug in the office. If they print this, surely they’ll print my rug claim?

  • timm4


    so you’re making the point that it should be ok to do the twit/facebook/mysqpace/etc.. thing doing hours that you’re supposed to be paid for contributing to generating revenume/profits.. or are you saying that because people will blow time on other things, that it’s ok to blow time on these things as well…

    either way.. if you have this opinion, i’m sure you’d have no issue when i tell you that on the weekend/off time, i’ll hit you up to do work for the company.. if you can infringe/waste the work time, i surely should be able to get you to do work on your off time…

    looking forward to how this is answered…


    • Robin Wauters

      I’m saying it’s stupid to think people can possibly be concentrated 100% on work for 8+ hours every day, and it’s even more stupid to try and blame a very specific activity people do when they’re not ‘generating revenue’ instead of just pointing out that human nature is what it is.

    • Piet Opperman

      The misconception that these “researchers” and you have is that you are paid by your employer to “spend hours” (your words).

      You are not paid to “spend hours”. At least, I make that assumption. If you are, I want your job.

      You are paid to PRODUCE. The hours are irrelevant. Measuring the expenditure of hours is stupid.

  • Joanne Jacobs

    Thanks Robin, this is a fab post, and glad to see someone responding to the ridiculous articles and calculations on failed productivity. As i’ve noted elsewhere, trips to the toilet cost businesses several billion a year, and outdated PCs that crash and take ages to load an application cost even more, if you start to look at every activity. There’s also an assumption that no learning occurs when people visit these social media. It’s about time someone showed up these articles for the idiocy they are. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  • Shiv Prakash

    Riding on twitter publicity bandwagon … these newspapers , I hate them …who told them to do tech news …its like making the apple go from ground and stick to the tree on its own .They misguide ppl …sore A**es .Infact there should be some legislation in public interest banning the same.
    Let ppl who understand it do it , techcruch will you tell them what it means … even this I guess would be too technical for them .

  • Derek Barney

    I think there is more time wasted on personal phone calls and water-cooler chatter…..

  • Kushal

    You wrote:

    “Morse, the IT services and technology company who commissioned the survey, said the true cost to the economy could actually be substantially higher than the £1.38bn estimate.”

    Did you mean:

    “Worse, …”?

    • Robin Wauters

      That was a possibility :) – but the company is actually called Morse.

  • Toms Bike Corner

    I don’t understand that hype about twitter, but humans want to communicate fast und everywhere. So i guess there is no simple way to stop workers using twitter at work.
    By the way: These “costs” are just estimated and in fact much lower than mentioned.

  • tenthings

    So the survey is wrong because *you* said so. good to know that.

  • MikeMc

    91.43% of all statistics are made up. That’s a fact.

    • _uxp

      I thought it was about 63%. Interesting to know that its going up.

      • MikeMc

        It’s the economy, the less research funding available the greater the “pulled that number from our collective ass” percentage. Who can afford to pay for actual research these days?

      • Charles Slang

        There’s a 91.43% chance that 63% of all statistics are made up!

  • @benrobbins

    When employers decide that workers nights and weekends are out of bounds for work, maybe workers will start caring what non-work activities are appropriate during “business hours.” Any time spent by workers on personal social media just brings a little karma to the work week…

  • Piet Opperman

    Amazing, how the practise of tying productivity to time spent still persists in this (supposedly) enlightened time. All manner of things are justified through this methodology, and all manner of things are condemned as well.

    I am reminded of a conversation:

    “So, why did you buy this expensive automatic pool cleaner?”

    “It save me time. I used to spend 2 hours a week cleaning the pool.”

    “And what are you doing with those two hours now?”

  • Cormac Heron

    I would have posted a comment on the Telegraph’s website but there was no way of connecting a link to my website. Why then would I waste my time? Funny how newspapers are just not “getting it.” They seem to believe that by keeping the reader on their page they will gain more readers in the long run. Wrong! The exact opposite is true. As for the survey, they seem to neglect to mention proper analysis as carried out by the likes of Gartner in this area.

  • Dan Ruby

    I have to wonder, while there is certainly this “issue” of employees using Twitter, Facebook, et al at work, what kind of revenues are being generated by offering companies a new way to market themselves? Surely a big company full of intelligent people can come up with a way to leverage all the social media contacts their employees invariably have… right?

  • Greg Brown

    Socially Goofing Off > Staring Out Window

  • Jean-Michel Decombe

    Although it is stupid to assume that people can stay focused on work eight hours in a row, and to forget that daydreaming, napping, and other forms of “downtime” can actually help productivity, there is no denying that social networking tools can be, in many cases, an invitation to slack that is too hard to resist. Thus, it is important to establish a policy of use throughout the day for oneself and stick to it if possible, so as to be able to be more focused and thus more efficient. Obviously, there are some types of work (public relations, sales, etc.) where social networking tools should indeed be considered productivity tools.

  • gerard

    was it another IDC or Gartner survey?

  • Justin Parks

    This “survey” caught my attention today as well, so I had to post about it in much the same vain as yourselves:

    My question is, and like many who have commented, if it costs billions then is it worth billions? Maybe businesses need to stop “banning” these tool and leverage them as folks here have said.

    Stupid survey. On the same pretence if “looking out the window is costing billions”, ban that, cover the windows with curtains inevitably leading to a survey claiming that “curtains cost the economy billions” so ban that, which leads to yet another survey saying “vacant staring into space costs the economy billions” at which point they start to wonder if they can ban that or maybe just poke peoples eyes out instead, or operate on their brains or such…


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