Surveys show that managers hold more negative attitudes to private use of social media at work - they should know what a time waster it is, they use it more than subordinates.

11,000 Norwegian employees participated in a study called 'Predictors of Use of Social Network Sites at Work'.

"It is very interesting that top executives, who are negative to private web-surfing during working hours, are the ones who surf the most for private purposes when at work," says Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen at the University of Bergen Department of Psychosocial Science, who suggests that this can be explained by the fact that top executives have longer working hours, and that work and leisure are much more integrated than it is for staff.

Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen. Credit: Ole Kristian Olsen

"It is likely that managers are worried about reductions in output and financial loss as a result of use of private social media among their employees," says Schou Andreassen, who believes they are among the first in the world to do research on the causes that may explain the attitudes and actual usages of private social media in the workplace. "Social media probably has a greater social function for singles than it has for people in relationships. The finding may also reflect that people with a high socioeconomic status, are not as afraid to lose their job as those in low-status jobs. In addition, high rollers may be more interested in social media to advance their career."

Another finding was differences between people who are very organized, and those who are less so. 

"While outgoing people in general enjoy being social, anxious people may prefer to communicate digitally rather than in stress-inducing real life situations," suggests Schou Andreassen. "Ambitious people with a sense of order may surf less than others for private purposes, but will probably use the web actively for work-related business during office hours."

The study also showed that use of social media at work is closely related to attitudes; strict guidelines and limited access reduce private browsing at work.

"Good regulations combined with motivational work challenges can prevent private browsing during work hours," says Schou Andreassen.

Some of the main findings in the study about the habits of internet use at work:

  • Younger employees use social media for private purposes more than older employees do.
  • Men browse the internet more for private purposes than women do during working hours.
  • People with higher education are the most active social media users.
  • Singles are more active on social media than those in relationships.
  • Extrovert and nervous people are more active online.
  • People who are structured/reliable/organised/prompt personalities, spend less time on social media compared to their counterparts.