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The recent debate about how to control employees using office time and networks to connect to social networks seems to have been something of a phony war. In spite of the time and effort spent on developing systems and policies to deal with the issue social networking within the workplace continues to rise. According to a survey by Internet content security provider Trend Micro, social networking at workplaces globally has risen to 24 per cent in 2010 from 19 per cent in 2008. The largest increase in social networking over corporate Internet connections during the last two years was among employees in Germany, which saw a more than 10 per cent jump, and the UK, with a six per cent rise.

Even for those firms who have succeeded in winning their own ‘battle’ with the problems associated with inappropriate levels of social networking, the victory can be somewhat pyrrhic in that many people merely take their activities elsewhere, including outdoors where they can connect to Facebook on their smartphones.

This has given rise to the notion that it is social networkers who are the new smokers of the 21st Century, outcast yet enjoying the solidarity of their companions, huddled in doorways, chatting, spreading news and sharing ideas to the envy of their deskbound colleagues. We haven’t yet been asked to provide a ‘Facebook shelter’ for them, but maybe it’s a matter of time.

Posted by Ann Clarke


We Brits work the longest hours in Europe. Nearly 46 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women work more hours than they are contracted for. At the top end of the labour market, 40 per cent of managers and 30 per cent of professionals work over 50 hours a week. We work an average of 8.7 hours per day compared to around 8 hours a day for the French and Germans. You can complain about this but at least it means we’re more productive than our indolent European brothers and sisters, aren’t we?

Well, no.

In fact, UK workers remain less productive than their counterparts in Germany and France. Output per hour worked is almost 20 per cent below that of France and Germany according to a recent report from by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

There are many explanations given for this apparent dichotomy, including the argument that the UK suffers from a poorer skills base. However one obvious difference lies in our willingness to work long, often unpaid overtime. Little wonder then that the average British lunch ‘hour’ is now a mere 27 minutes long. We seem to be perfectly aware that this is counterproductive. Nearly three quarters of people working over forty-eight hours a week claim that their work takes them longer and their performance suffers as a result. People working in creative jobs can only maintain a high level of performance for around 32 hours a week.

No wonder we have decreasing levels of job satisfaction. Over the nineties the number of men reporting that they were very happy with their hours fell from 35 per cent to 20 per cent and for women from 51 per cent to 29 per cent.

One of the most curious aspects of all this is that we work in ways we know to be ineffective even when we have increasing control of our working time. According to the European Working Conditions Survey, the UK enjoys Europe’s fourth highest level of autonomy in working hours (just behind Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands and well ahead of France and Germany).

The puzzle is that we know it’s wrong, we know it doesn’t work, we know it makes us feel bad and yet we still do it even when we have control over our own working time. ?