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Social media and presenteeism sap worker productivity

Workers are often distracted by social media, but also aren't taking breaks for meals or to leave the office

Social media is the number one distraction from work in British offices, according to research from business lender Fleximize.

Instant messaging app WhatsApp was found to be the most distracting platform in the survey of 2,000 people, with 72% of workers chatting with their friends on it when they should be working. It was closely followed by Facebook, which distracts 70% of workers, while Instagram (49%), Twitter (41%), and Snapchat (30%) were also named as common workplace distractions.

Most (84%) respondents claimed that they procrastinated for more than 30 minutes each day.

Despite this the research found that many workers don't take designated breaks. Six in 10 (63%) admitted to eating both lunch and breakfast at their desks at least twice a week, if not every day (20%). Two-thirds (65%) said they do not usually leave the office at lunch at all.

Additionally, seven in 10 (71%) reported that they were doing up to four hours of overtime per week.

Peter Tuvey, co-founder and managing partner of Fleximize, suggested that employers try to turn social media from a distraction into a powerful business tool. “It’s ironic that social media, which has become an essential tool for businesses, is at the same time proving the biggest drain on employee productivity,” he said. “However, it can also be seen as an opportunity to harness the ‘always on’ mentality of Millennials. For example, companies could encourage all staff to gear their social media habits towards business goals, whether that’s seeking out and sharing relevant news stories or keeping an eye on the activity of competitors.”

He also said that employers should look at ways to encourage employees to take suitable breaks. “It was a big eye-opener to see that 71% of UK workers are doing up to four hours of overtime each week,” he said. “If these figures mean employers start instating mandatory lunch hours and a ‘don’t take your work home with you’ policy, it could be a big step forward for UK businesses in improving the work/life balance of their teams.”