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Companies that allow their workers to access to Facebook during business hours lose an average of 1.5% in total employee productivity, according to a study by Nucleus Research.

Interviews with? 237 randomly selected US office workers and a subsequent analysis (pdf) found that 77% report having a Facebook account and 61% of them access Facebook during work hours. Moreover, one in every 33 employees has built their entire Facebook profile during work time, and roughly the same number of respondents use Facebook only when they are at work.

According to Nucleus Research’s calculations, these figures amount to a 1.47% loss in total productivity among workers.

Additional study findings:

  • Of those using Facebook at work, 87% cannot define a clear business reason for accessing the site.
  • Of the 13% of users who had a business reason to access Facebook, most were not using it for personal networking and it was one component of a largely unmeasured business stragtegy.
  • While the average user spends 15 minutes or work time on Facebook each day, some employees report spending upwards of two hours.

The analysis also revealed potential security concerns relating to Facebook use as an email alternative, since most organizations do not monitor and manage Facebook as closely as email. This, Nucleus Research said, creates an opportunity for Facebook users to circumvent controls and violate corporate communications policies.

Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research for Nucleus, said that companies facing tight margins and financial pressures cannot afford to lose any productivity, however small it may seem. “While it won’t make you popular, restricting Facebook can reclaim lost productivity. If your profitability is say 2%, this could be the difference between staying open or closing shop,” she said.

Though many CRM vendors recently have announced integration with Twitter and other social networking tools as a means to help sales, marketing and customer service initiatives, Nucleus recommended that each company? assess these potential benefits against lost productivity to see their current Facebook policy makes sense for their organization.

According to comScore, Facebook currently ranks as the sixth most visited website in the US, clocking 77 million unique visitors from home and work locations in June. Separate research from the DMA and Headmix found that three-fourths marketers think it’s important for their organization to complement an external social media strategy with networking software that enables internal workforce collaboration and communication.

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