Gosh…! Is it any wonder the “R” word (recession) is now being spoken about openly. Already the US authorities have cut interest rates twice in a week in a massive bid to prevent the country falling into an economic downturn. And UK commentators are saying thinks like “when the US sneezes, the UK catches a cold”, which I’m not sure what it means, but apparently suggests we are also going to have economic problems.
In the USA, few people have been saving money over the past few years and that means the amount of debt now equals the amount of savings available nationwide. The USA is stoney-broke. In the UK, things are no better; the average personal credit card debt is equal to several years wages for someone in the Far East.
However, the real problem for the Western World, it appears, is that no-one is at work. We’ve all shut up shop and nothing is being done. At least that’s what it seems like at first sight when you read surveys like this.
According to this latest piece of research, billions of pounds are being lost to the British economy because everyone is spending at least half an hour a day on social networking sites. That adds up to a massive £6.5bn – or almost £1m for every minute of every day when we’re busy on Facebook or MySpace.
But wait – there was a survey only a while back which showed us that the average worker now spends 2 hours a day dealing with emails. Some even believe it could be as much as 2.5 hours. Then we need to add in half an hour for lunch and a further 30 minutes a day spent getting coffees, visiting the loo and other “necessities”. So, together with the social networking sites we’re up to four hours taken up without any work being done.
Then, there’s an average of 30 minutes a day socialising with work colleagues and on personal phone calls. Plus, according to one study, people admit to “frittering” away 2 hours a day on – well, they don’t know. So, that’s a total of 6.5 hours on average without any work being done. But, we also have to add the time lost by being late due to traffic – around 10 minutes a day on average. Then you have to allow for the time wasted in meetings – many people “drift off” in meetings it seems and this bothers many people. So, if you allowed a further 50 minutes for non productive meetings, we have another hour, taking us up to 7.5 hours. Considering that the US Department of Labour tells us that on average people only go to work for around 5 hours per day, you can see the problem.
Of course, it’s all nonsense. Sure, people surf the web at work; certainly they visit social networking sites; and definitely they have chin-wags with their colleagues. People have never worked for 8 hours a day. They may have been in the office or down the pit, but during their 8 hour stint they spend a great deal of time socialising. Work is a social activity and many businesses have yet to realise this. As we spend more of our life online, it means inevitably people will look for social networking activities in that world. Far from banning social networking to “improve” productivity, businesses need to realise that by allowing social networking they will be boosting the effectiveness of their workforce.
Good to see that CISCO last year bought into social networking technology – it stands to make big bucks of we all go social networking crazy. But the company is also a firm supporter of social networking – just take a look at the huge array of forums it already runs for itself. Clearly, the company that is the most significant supporting structure of the Internet reckons that its people and customers are highly productive if they interact online. So why do so many other companies fall for the spurious statistics that everyone is “wasting time” online? Time spent on the Internet IS productive time – it’s just that many of the “old school” types running business have yet to realise that.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+