Facebook is worst offender among the many Internet distractions keeping workers from getting things done in the office.
Most workers stop what they are doing several times an hour to respond to messages from friends and co-workers on social media like Facebook and Twitter, browse the Internet, and check and respond to e-mail.
And once distracted, it takes time for a worker to get back to the task at hand - one study put the average disruption at 23 minutes.
All those interruptions add up to a massive expense for businesses and the U.S. economy.
Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) Costs Us Billions A study in 2005 by Basex Inc. estimated that Internet distractions to "knowledge workers" (managers, professionals and office staff) added up to over two hours per day and cost the U.S. economy $588 billion.
Using the Basex formula, Money Morning has calculated that Internet distractions will bleed a stunning $785 billion from the U.S. economy in 2012 - nearly 5% of the $15.8 trillion gross domestic product (GDP).
"Whether sitting at a desk in the office, in a conference room, in one's home office, or at a client's, the likelihood of being able to complete a task (what many call "work') without interruption is near nil," noted the Basex report.
Last year research firm uSamp conducted a survey on work distractions for social email software maker harmon.ie that found 45% of IT employees couldn't even work for 15 minutes without getting interrupted by something.
Assuming an average IT salary of $30 an hour and just one hour of time wasted each day, uSamp calculated a loss of $10,375 to the employer in lost productivity.
Facebook the Biggest Culprit Another survey, conducted this year by Salary.com, showed just how deep the problem of wasted time on the job runs in the American workplace.
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed -- 64% -- said they visit non-work related Websites every day while at work. Of that group, 29% admitted spending 1-2 hours a week on personal Websites and 21% admitted to wasting 2-5 hours each week.
As for what workers are doing on the Internet, 41% said they were going on Facebook. And 37% said they visited LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), which can cost companies more than lost time. Nearly half of the survey respondents said they used work time to hunt for another job.
Other popular Internet distractions included Google+ (28%), Amazon (25%), CNN (20%), and YouTube (13%).
Many companies try to curb Internet distractions by blocking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but with limited success. People just use their smartphones instead.
"Executives may be naïve in thinking that banned access to social networks eliminates employee use," Tudor Aw, KPMG's European head of Technology, told Salary.com. "Indeed, the survey shows that by restricting or blocking access, many employees tend to move their activity to their own personal devices which are often less secure and completely unmonitored."
In some of the surveys, employees said spending work time on Internet distractions provided much needed breaks that made them overall better workers. Maybe so, but any time spent on Facebook on the job is time that no work is getting accomplished.
"Information technology that was designed at least in part to save time is actually doing precisely the opposite," Yaacov Cohen, co-founder and CEO of harmon.ie, said of the survey he commissioned. "For all of us, it's time to take back the Internet and find ways to control our digital addiction."
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Social Media Distractions Cost U.S. Economy $650 Billion [INFOGRAPHIC]
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