Indian industry frowns on employees using social networks

A survey by an industry association claims a 12.5 percent productivity loss from social networking

Close to 12.5 percent of the productivity of employees in India is lost daily as most of them while away their time on social networks, according to a survey by a large industry association in the country.

A typical employee spends an hour of his working time, almost every day, on various social networking sites, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said on its Web site on Sunday. Its Social Development Fund conducted a random survey of close to 4,000 employees in large cities and towns in India.

Some of the sites and services that employees access during office hours are Facebook, Twitter and Google's Orkut social-networking site.

The survey showed that 77 percent of workers who have an Orkut account use it during work hours. About 83 percent of employees see nothing wrong with surfing at work during office hours, ASSOCHAM said.

The survey also found that 19 percent of companies allow social networking use only for business purposes, while 16 percent allow limited personal use. Forty percent of the employees interviewed said that their companies allow employees full access to social networks during work hours, according to ASSOCHAM.

Companies are still in the process of framing policies on access to social networks during working hours, said a human resources executive at a software company in Bangalore, who declined to be named. Even if a rule book forbids visits to social-networking sites and other Web sites for personal use, most companies do not use technology to control access to those Web sites, she added.

The majority of companies are still wary of social networks, but that could be an overreaction based on suspicion of new technology, analysts said. "We saw the same reaction when chat was first introduced, and industry frowned on it," said Diptarup Chakraborti, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Rather than define the time spent on social networks as wasteful in all cases, companies should start harnessing the technology to their benefit, for activities such as marketing, Chakraborti said.

Some controls on misuse of the technology both from the points of view of productivity and protection of corporate information will of course have to be in place, he added.

A large number of companies in India have started using social networks to promote their products and services, and also participate in forums that discuss their products and services, Chakraborti added. These include not only IT companies but large companies in traditional industries as well, he said.

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John Ribeiro

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