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New research counters claims that employees waste time on personal social networking sites at work

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Despite almost three quarters of employers implementing strict policies around social networking, new research shows nearly two thirds of employees do not check their personal social media networks while at work.

According to recruitment firm Robert Half, out of those who did log on to social media sites at work, the majority (47%) only accessed them for half an hour or less.

But a quarter of workers admitted that accessing social media sites while at work does affect their productivity and nearly 30% of respondents stated that they used social networking to take a break from work, with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being the most popular sites. Young people (aged 24 and under) were the most aware of the social media crossover and the effect their personal social media profiles could have on their career, with 43% stating that they would not add their boss as a friend, compared with the average of 30%. 

Additionally, as the use of social media becomes more mainstream, it seems that it is increasingly important for employers to have a social media presence, in particular for young people, with 26% saying that it was now important.   

Phil Sheridan, managing director for Robert Half UK, said: "This research runs counter to the generally accepted belief that employees are simply wasting their employers' time at work by checking and updating their personal social media profiles.  It seems that the current UK workforce is much more conscientious than some may have first thought."

"The study found that social networking sites are permitted in two thirds of the workplace (63%) and indeed social media can be very beneficial in raising a company's profile, brand championing, for professional networking and internal communications, if employees are taught to use it appropriately. The technology it is not going to disappear and as the younger generation moves into the workforce, businesses need to be prepared to set out clear social media guidelines."

The use of social networking sites also appears to be influencing the job search with over one in 10 workers (12%) stating that they have used social networking sites to look for a job.  Young people were the most open to using such sites for this purpose (20%) with a further 15% actually having found a job via a social networking site.

Sheridan added: "Used responsibly, social media can have further positive effects, especially outside of the workplace. For example, over a third of UK workers (38%) have logged onto a social media website to help them research and prepare for a job interview. Tools such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn can be incredibly beneficial in the hunt for a new job, and when used effectively, can cut down on the time it takes to find that perfect role".