Recent surveys of online Internet users shows the amount of time people spend on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter is growing, and it may be costing employers time and money.
In the U.S., 77 percent of workers who have a Facebook account say they check their updates at work.
In the United Kingdom, a similar survey of workers shows 57 percent regularly log on to social networks, resulting in 40 minutes of lost worker productivity per day.
"It isn't just something you can do for half an hour during a lunch break but all through the day and because of that, it has a huge impact because people aren't necessarily concentrating on what they should be doing during the day," said Philip Wicks, a consultant at London-based technology research firm, Morse PLC.
Wicks estimates social networking during office hours costs businesses in the U.K. about $2.25 billion a year. Workplace consultants say the losses will grow as social and blogging sites attract even more users.
But instead of fighting a popular technology, William Beers at accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers says companies should be looking for ways to take advantage of it. "So instead of trying to shut it down, I think we should try to embrace these technologies, put in a nice policy that governs it and explain to users the risks related to it, provide some training and then see what business benefits we can have from it," he said.
Some workers say networking sites are helpful in exchanging ideas, boosting morale or finding the right candidate for the job. "Certainly, 'Linked-in' on the professional level is a very useful tool in connecting with other professionals," said one man.
But others argue online socializing is best left outside the office. "If you want to spend time at the weekends on it or in the evenings, fine, but I think most people are probably too busy, should be too busy, to do it at work anyway," a woman said.
Studies show the amount of time people spend on social networking and blogging sites has tripled since last year. Employers are fighting back. A recent survey shows 54 percent of U.S. companies have already banned social networking and blogging while on the job.