Facebook can't be costing 233 million hours per month

by admin on September 11, 2007

in General

There’s a kerfuffle going on about a Peninsula report that claims Facebook costs UK plc 233 million lost hours per month, the equivalent of £130 million per day. That’s what the BBC has said. And it has been repeated all over the place.

None of the mainstream media chose to question the math. Peninsula’s assertions don’t stand even a cursory screening. It’s just not possible. Work it out. There are some 3.5 million Facebook users in the UK. To lose that amount of time, each and every one would have to be spending 66 hours per month on Facebook for every month of the year. If that were true then UK plc would be going down the toilet and the stink would be noticeable. (Some may already think that but…) I know what I think of Peninsula’s headline grabbing research: horse crap. But what of others? The Inquirer takes a similar position saying:

Employment law firm Peninsula added up a number and divided by its shoe size and worked out that 233 million hours are lost

That sounds about right to me. Let’s be clear. Peninsula makes its money scaring the living crap out of firms by pointing out just how much at risk they are from errant employees. They offer help developing great standards of employee relationship such as these, epitomised by Paul Fabretti’s experience:

A headache is having to live on the breadline for a long period of time because one of your clients (Swift Marketing Solutions) deducted wages from me as an incentive to make me work more effectively and at the same time changed the terms of my contract without giving me a new one. Is it not the responsibility of Penninsula to ensure that their clients are acting within the rules?

Luis Suarez more considered but equally poignant take:

Why don’t we carry out studies that show and demonstrate the huge amount of losses for every single business out there just because their knowledge workforce did not know who to contact to get the job done faster, much more responsively and with plenty more quality? Do we have to remind business how much money they have lost over the course of the years just because one department didn’t know how to reach out to another to help out in a customer situation? How much money and time have businesses wasted on reinventing the wheel at the other side of the world, when that same business implemented a similar solution, but for a different customer?

Good idea Luis. Get IBM to fund it and I’d certainly be interrested.

In the meantime here’s a thought for those looking to find a new job. How about asking whether the prospective employee uses Peninsula to help with employee management? As a rider, ask about the companies social networking policies. Employers need recognize that selection plays both ways.

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Paul Fabretti September 11, 2007 at 9:07 pm

I couldn't agree more Dennis. I thought that in this day and age people just COULDN'T get away with appalling excuses for PR as this.

As for making the numbers up, this kind of tosh is only going to prove that Peninsula don't have a clue what they are talking about!

Gavin Heaton September 12, 2007 at 12:16 am

Agree … similar pieces have been run in Australia and in the US. Each time, the articles focus on the fear and ignorance of business managers rather than on the potential for innovation and intelligent activation.

But as you say, in the war for talent, new employees will be looking more closely at corporate social networking policies (if they exist) … they seem a strong indicator of innovative corporate and HR practices.

Stuart Jones September 12, 2007 at 9:21 am

Dennis, I LOVE your comments about Peninsula and thought you may be interested in the fact they made a donation to Hazel Blears to help her campaign for the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. After all you wouldn't want to call a halt to all this mindless employer legislation the Labour Party has introduced would you if you could benefit from it?

Dennis Howlett September 12, 2007 at 9:28 am

I get it – the blind leading the idiotic – figures.

Richard Young September 12, 2007 at 9:32 am

When I was a magazine editor and getting mountains of press releases every day – another plus to being freelance – I did have this idea that we'd collect every one of these "British business loses £37m a day to inefficient toilet paper usage" type announcements over a period of a few months. The aim was for total "lost" to raise UK GDP up to the level of competitor nations – Germany first, then Japan – if only UK business would install spyware/monitor employees more closely/buy better toilet paper.

Never got around to it, of course. It would have taken too much time away from productive work…

Stuart Jones September 12, 2007 at 1:12 pm
sig September 12, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Where's my calculator… ah there.

47% of the UK population works. Average working hours for those are 8 hours 43 minutes or about 174 hours per month.

If the Facebookers are an average population they should work (3.5 x 0.47 x 174) = 286 million hours per month in total. Of which they spend 233 million hours on Facebook during work hours it seems.

In other words if you replace PLCs with all work in the UK you would come to that all UK Facebook members spends 7 hours 30 minutes per day and during work hours on Facebook leaving 1 hour 14 minutes to real work, walking the corridors, eating and so forth.

But of course, it is truly very bad that they spend all that time online on Facebook when on the farm tractor, when conducting the tube, when driving taxis and running Peninsula. Glad I'm not British!

(Could perhaps explain why the editors cannot calculate either, they spend all their time on Facebook!)

Paul Fabretti September 12, 2007 at 2:28 pm

@sig – great response! shame the fools at Peninsula didn't consider any of this basic maths when they put their press release together.

Mind you, judging by the comments by a Peninsula employee to my post they are not all rocket scientists anyway.

Luis Suarez September 12, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Hi Dennis! Woooohooo! Nice wrap up post with some really good input, indeed. And regarding your comments about IBM perhaps putting up that study I may take your word on it. I will probably have a look and see if there would be a specific group that conducts this kind of studies and see if they would want to put one up together. I am sure it would be really really interesting. Will keep you posted.

By the way, you will be happy to read that thanks to disappointing news articles like the one we linked to I am just about to re-open my FB account. Who would have thought, eh? heh

Stay tuned…

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