No, Twitter Use Is Not Costing Companies Billions

from the stop.-now.-please. dept

Not this again. It happens with every new internet fad. Some company trying to sell something (filters, consulting, training, etc.) comes out with some study claiming that the new popular internet thingy is "costing x billions of dollars" because workers are using it for some amount of time per day. All of them work on the same basic principle. Figure out how much time people spend using the service, and multiply it by how much people make per hour, and then voila. Of course, this assumes (incorrectly) that every minute not working is "lost productivity." Of course, if that were true then coffee breaks, lunch breaks, sleep and many other things would also be "lost productivity." But, we all know that's ridiculous and that the truth is those things make people more productive by giving them a break here and there to recharge.

So, please, please, please don't believe the latest ridiculous study coming out of the UK claiming that Twittering employees are costing UK businesses £1.83 billion. It's the same ridiculousness, calculating that the average worker spends about 40 minutes on Twitter, but making no effort to figure out if that actually negatively impacts productivity -- just assuming that it means 40 minutes of "lost productivity." How many times do we need to repeat that time does not equal productivity before these companies stop coming out with such bogus studies?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Richard (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    It has been known that this is nonsense for about 3000 years.

    The following is from the Old Testament:

    "thou shalt not muzzle the Ox that treadeth out the corn"

     

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  2.  
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    Trails, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    Another error

    Another error is to assume that twitter time is additional net time spent "not working".

    There's no idea of people who now twitter used to stare at the wall/play WoW/fantasize about Tila Tequila/etc...

    I'd think people would notice if the entire workforce spent 40 minutes less/day working.

     

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  3.  
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    DocMenach (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    Even if time was equal to productivity...

    Even if time was equal to productivity the study still wouldn't make any sense because it seems to make the poor assumption that people are incapable of doing more than one thing at a time. I am actually on the phone right now as I type this. I am getting work done and posting a comment at the same time.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Conspicously absent this year...

    "No, Twitter Use Is Not Costing Companies Billions"

    Actually, I've been a little surprised at the LACK of these reports this year. Based on reading my my newspaper, you can conclude that the internet, Fantasy Football, Fantasy Basketball, Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Lance Armstrong's Ball, Myspace, Craig's List, Facebook, iGoogle pages, Twitter, the shitter, cell phones, iPhones, pheromones, breakfast, lunch, dinner, sleeping, weeping, soda, sugary foods, ESPN, radios, televisions, iHome Stations, raporism, malware from piracy, and incessant chronic masturbation have cost the American economy 12.69 Quadrillion bazillion ferillion blafillion dollars.

    Does anyone really believe this stuff anymore?

     

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  5.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Another error is to assume that twitter time is additional net time spent "not working".


    Ha! That's a fine point. Twitter doesn't make slackers, it absorbs them from archaic means of not working.

    Seriously, the productivity problem I've run into time and again is that management often does not, or cannot, deal with non-producers.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    at least once more

     

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  7.  
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    Joe, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    Lost in Empire

    I don't know about you guys but have you ever really worked?

    I agree with above statements that blocking sites like this have much less harm of productivity. But I disagree with those that misuse the time.

    So what above comments are stating that an employee who browse social networks over 3/4 of his work time or 1/2 of his work time is still as productive as someone that does 4/4?

    Working 9 hours and being paid 8 and have 1hour lunch or fun time is productive. But working 8 hours , browsing 2 hours and have 1 hour of lunch is employee that needs to be shot in the head for calling it work. ANd on top of that their IT+ Management suck.

    Work is work ...tweeting and updating status updates every 2 minutes isn't productive and you can't prove me wrong...

    So is the UK deal real? I think so , problem is they are not as sensative on NPI and workload as in United States ...Websense is installed in majority of companies but I don't blame you for not working at big corps :) I know 40 of them at least including Colleges.

     

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    The Buzz Saw (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Ha

    Reading Techdirt every day has cost me billions.

    I coulda been robbin' banks.

    -- Yes, because there are people on the Internet stupid enough to take me seriously.

     

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  9.  
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    Simon, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Conspicously absent this year...

    You joke, but it all seriousness my company loses 26hours of productivity a day from me because of these things :-(

     

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  10.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Lost in Empire

    So what above comments are stating that an employee who browse social networks over 3/4 of his work time or 1/2 of his work time is still as productive as someone that does 4/4?

    Working 9 hours and being paid 8 and have 1hour lunch or fun time is productive. But working 8 hours , browsing 2 hours and have 1 hour of lunch is employee that needs to be shot in the head for calling it work. ANd on top of that their IT+ Management suck.


    Hmm. Why not judge productivity based on *productivity* rather than hours worked?

     

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    Coco (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Lost in Empire

    I kind of agree with you, I see peoples in almost permanent connections at their working time, and if you send them a message they answer right away, so I would believe it is a bit like if I was concentrated on my task and someone would talk to me every 10 minutes, I would not concentrate too much I believe maybe I am not smart enough to do multitasking, but I am working in a very sensitive type of job, and if I am not concentrate I can hurt someone really bad with my equipment, and yes it is controlled by a computer, running Special Effects Water fountain during a show or rehearsal or maintenance procedure with 30 meters 10 centimeter diameter water columns can hurt someone bad

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:18pm

    As long as employees are paid by the hour or are compensated based on time, then as far as employers are concerned, time spent (on the clock) not working is money wasted, To them, that's lost productivity, regardless of any other factors.

    Personally, I think it's crap, but that's the way it is from their perspective.

     

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  13.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Lost in Empire

    "Hmm. Why not judge productivity based on *productivity* rather than hours worked?"

    Because that kills the stranglehold employers have on anyone that is either salaried or exepected to work or be available after hours. If, like me, you tend to "work" something like a 12 hour day on a salary, you ought to be able to expect to decompress now and again. I make myself available both to our internal staff and external customers roughly 7am - 9pm or so. If my boss started clamping down on my reading of techdirt, or my love of random wikipedia articles to find/learn random new shit, then I'd have to comply since he'd be within his rights.

    What I WOULDN'T have to do would be to be available for more than 9 hours a day, and I can assure you that productivity would suffer because of it...

     

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  14.  
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    Dave, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    measure productivity

    You're right, why not just simply measure productivity by, you guessed it, work produced? (oh, you can't sell products for that!)

    Obviously people do "waste" time at work shopping, reading sports, doing all kinds of things, ones that would probably dwarf Facebook and Twitter use. But if it's truly effecting their performance, duh, fire them.

    I wonder if some of this is simply managers resenting people who can get their done work faster than others and then chill out for a bit - or the managers are at least worried that the more sluggish workers will resent it.

    One place I worked as a consultant, they wouldn't let me have web access because I wasn't permanent. A fairly childish version of the above. Instead, I just did my work quickly as usual, and took long breaks walking around outside. And I finally got fed up with infantile rules, and quit. Managers often have this fascinating idea that making the workplace more miserable helps productivity.

    Everywhere I've worked I've run into a few people who could just get their work done faster than others. I saw no reason to begrudge these people some slack time; they outperformed their colleagues, so who cares if they played fantasy football or Twittered all day.

    I guess it's also like unions gone wrong... anybody who outperforms is making others look bad and needs to be tamped down. Likewise, they think even the most productive workers should be punished because the sluggish can't get their work done while Twittering.

    Obviously, some of it is simply managers who love both benchmarks and control. I'm so glad to have opted out of the BS corporate environment.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    on the subject of bad managment

    a rather unofficial policy I have seen in my time in big business is if a staff member is happy then he/she probably isn't working hard enough and this is even a prevalent mindset in retail institutions a friend told me that only a few weeks ago Coles (an Australian supermarket chain) has instituted policy regarding nightfill staff, now they have to wear uniform and cannot wear headphones. nightfill for those that might not know have no customer interaction time and only work while the store is closed these staff don't represent the company so why make them wear the uniform? And why on earth would you take away their music. I worked in nightfill for three years whilst I was studying and I cant imagine what I would have done if they had told me I couldn't wear my walkman (ahh a blast from the past) Its petty childish management thinking to take away the few perks of being nightfill as opposed to working during the day where you get a full shift and a face full of customers who are so stupid it could be contagious I can only suppose that the policy has some estoric reasoning behind it but I can't imagine how taking those perks away affects the companies productivity.

     

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  16.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

    Re: Lost in Empire

    Hey, I get paid salary. I get paid to do a job, not to work a certain number of hours. My salary is based off of an expected number of work hours, but I go over and under that number constantly. I'll work 44 hours one week and 36 the next.

    So, don't tell me what amount of my time needs to be productive. That's between me and my employer and my employment contract.

    And the article states that 40 minutes a day on Twitter. So, where did you pull those b.s. numbers from ... oh yeah, they're b.s., we all know where they came from. If an employee is spending three quarters of their time not working, then there probably is a problem, but it's not Twitter, and Twitter shouldn't be singled out because of it. Now, if you want to readjust your numbers from supposedly someone spending most of their day fudging about to the true number of about 10% ...

    Of course it would be hard for someone putting in 25% of the time effort to be as productive as someone putting in 100%. But, I can guarantee you that someone putting in 90% of the time can be as if not more productive than someone putting in 100%.

     

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  17.  
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    Josh (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Lost in Empire

    What? No, you can't do things like that Mike! It's that sort of thinking that caused the swine flu, supports raporism, and will cause the sun to explode prematurely.

     

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  18.  
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    wnyght, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Conspicously absent this year...

    I don't think Dr. Suess could not have said it better.

     

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  19.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: Lost in Empire

    "Why not judge productivity based on *productivity* rather than hours worked?"

    Sarcastic and true answer:
    Because that doesn't sell any Activity Blocking software, filter software, DPI software, PC monitoring software, or associated solutions.

    Realistic answer:
    Because it is much easier to count hours of ass-in-seat than to count 'product'. The manager's manager has little faith in his ability to measure output, so he is instead asked to assure ass-in-seat time.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    So they spend 40 minutes on twitter.

    They spend 20 minutes of a coffee break 3 times a day
    they spend an hour on lunch.
    they spend 20 minutes on the phone talking to friends.
    they check their mail 3 times a day, for 10 minutes each time.
    they update their facebook status and play mafia wars once a day for 30 minutes.
    they get to work 10 minutes late, and they never do anything useful in the last 30 minutes of the day.

    Let see... 480 minutes - 40 - 60 - 60 - 20 - 30 - 30 -10 - 30 = 200. So basically, they work about 3.3 hours per day.

    Yup, the internet has no effect on productivity!

     

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  21.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    "Yup, the internet has no effect on productivity!"

    Way to embody the failure of counting hours. Where in your equation is ALL of the MASSIVE productivity the internet allows for business? Websites? CRM software? Email campaigns? Speed and paper savings from faxing?

    Maybe it's time to get a vasectomy for the sake of the human race, friend...

     

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  22.  
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    McJob, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

    Re: Lost in Empire

    "working 8 hours , browsing 2 hours and have 1 hour of lunch is employee that needs to be shot in the head for calling it work"

    8 + 2 + 1 = 11

    The person is at work for eleven hours and you want to shoot them ... sick

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 6:33pm

    Re: Re:

    Maybe it's time you left mom's basement, friend.

     

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  24.  
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    It's a tool- use it, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 6:41pm

    every second

    Some of you really think that every second spent on the web at work is wasted time - really ? I suppose I could spend 3 to 4 minutes getting a dictionary and looking up a word, but no ... I save maybe three minutes by usint the web. And don't tell me to use spell checker ... that pos is useless until you fill it up with all the good words in use in whatever field you are in. This is just small example, but you get the isea - I hope.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 4:13am

    And what about those companies that sprang up on the premise of using these tools for productivity? Yammer, for instance

     

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  26.  
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    Philip Storry, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 6:05am

    What is productivity?

    I'm wading through logs today, looking for evidence of a problem. My colleague is handling requests from the business. At the end of the day, I will have accomplished one "job", which will confirm whether we have serious problems that must be addressed. He will have done perhaps as many as 30.

    Who was more productive?

    That's why people like to measure it in time. It's the simplest, easiest unit that isn't going to cause huge arguments about what "productivity" is.

    And, of course, because businesses like metrics. They allow nincompoops to hide behind figures as though they were facts. It's what the Peter Principle is built on.

    It's like the telecommuting paradox. Working in central London it probably costs my employer thousands of pounds a year to merely have a desk for me to turn up to. Real estate, light, water, heat, power for the PC, air conditioning, lifts, cleaning services... It all adds up. And for what gain? I have email, I have instant messaging, I could have a webcam with ease. Even allowing for bandwidth costs, it would certainly be cheaper to buy me a laptop and let me work from home.
    The only people who actually need to be here are the receptionist and anyone having a face-to-face meeting (usually with a client or supplier).

    But then if we all worked remotely they would definitely have to measure productivity differently.

    So they fall back on the simple familiarities...

     

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  27.  
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    David Gerard (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 7:08am

    Showing up to work at all �costs British economy £2.13 trillion a year�

    Two-thirds of office workers use sites like Twitter and Facebook during the working day, wasting an average of 40 minutes a week each.

    The survey was conducted by Morse IT, with no consideration whatsoever of the company’s extensive line of Internet filtering products.

    Twatbook was costing the economy £1.38 billion zillion a year, pointless meetings learning to synergise our buzzword growth were costing £65.23 billion zillion a year, MP3 file sharing was costing £12 billion zillion a year, reading the Daily Telegraph was costing £15.25, drinking tea and eating food was costing £17.243154 (recurring) billion zillion a year, blinking on the job was costing £5 billion zillion a year and employees going to the toilet rather than having catheters fitted to stay at their desks 24 hours a day was costing £6.66 billion zillion a year. b3ta was free, for some reason.

    The total losses to the economy added to more than the national gross domestic product, strongly suggesting that showing up to work at all, and indeed the capitalist system in toto, was a net loss, and we should all live off farming our back yards and send our tweets via actual carrier pigeons.

    Temp agency OfficeAngels disagreed. “As younger generations join the workplace, I believe UK businesses will, inevitably, have to embrace social networks, recognising the benefits of providing staff with potential for business networking. So they can find a job somewhere that doesn’t insult their intelligence by blocking a knitting needle shop as a ‘weapons site’ or something equally twattish.”

    (My original blog post.)

     

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  28.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Re: Conspicously absent this year...

    Does anyone really believe this stuff anymore?

    Politicians do.

     

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  29.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Lost in Empire

    That is a very long sentence.

     

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  30.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 9:42am

    Re: every second

    I liked the misspelled words. Maybe a spell checker isn't such a bad idea? :P

     

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  31.  
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    Esahc (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Re: Re: Conspicously absent this year...

    and some employers

     

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  32.  
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    ss, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    Twitter always sucks

    twitter sucks always sucks, adicted.

     

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  33.  
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    Seo Lair Blog, Oct 28th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    I Disagree Here

    You claim that coffee breaks, lunch breaks, etc... are not "lost productivity". Of course any time spent not working is assumed to be unproductive. The definition of productive is to produce something, i.e to do work. Sure it's been proven that short breaks promote increased productivity- no argument there. I would argue, however, that its when a bunch of small activities are added up that productivity is lost. If i get to work, take a coffee break, go on digg, check twitter, and set my fantasy football roster, I've just sat at work for an entire morning and produced nothing. Typing this comment right now is a perfect example of not being productive. Will posting this make me more productive this afternoon? Probably not. Good post...thanks for the good debate.

     

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