At a recent work experience placement at a local newspaper, I noticed the journalist sitting next to me would intermittently flit to her Facebook news-feed between phonecalls. (Or while on the phone if it was a particularly dry interview).

Such is no surprise. Doesn’t everyone use their Facebooks/Twitters/MySpaces (for the old-fashioned) at work these days?

Apparently not. According to this Computerworld Article , 54% of US companies have instituted a total ban on use of social networking sites during working hours.

Said Dave Willmer in the article:

Using social networking sites may divert employees’ attention away from more pressing priorities, so it’s understandable that some companies limit access,”

This news startled me somewhat. I was sure a few months back I had read articles extolling the benefits of employees using these sites (albeit infrequently) at work.

Sure enough, here was the “Read Write Web” article I had read:

A new study just published by Australian scientists found that taking time to visit websites of personal interest, including news sites and YouTube, provided workers a mental break that ultimately increased their ability to concentrate and was correlated with a 9% increase in total productivity.”

Of course there are limits to this:

“…within a reasonable limit of less than 20% of their total time in the office.

Either American workers are spending much more than their allotted time on Facebook or  CEO’s are misguidedly taking a zero-tolerance approach when they really should be adopting a “little-but often” mantra?

From my own experience, a little time on Facebook at work does offer you the opportunity to rest your brain from the rigours of work. However, for me, it also allows a sense of connection to the outside world while you are glued to your desk.

In fact, there does seem to be a bit of psychology behind why social networking sites are beneficial at work. This article offers ‘5 reasons why Social Networking Websites Increase Productivity at the Workplace’.

It suggests technology is “the new cigarette break”, and brings “‘life into the workplace” . This acts as an antidote to growing resentment at long working hours and less time spent with friends and family.

You don’t need to rush home from work to plan your night out as “employees can now access social networking sites to make arrangements, plans and dates during the day”.

The writer also suggests that social networking can benefit the business, forging links between employees and allowing for business networking.

Off to go and check my news feed – guilt free.