Facebook Costs US Employers $28,000,000,000 per year

Image Source: Edudemic

Facebook.  All your friends are there, it’s so much fun, and it costs US employers $28,000,000,000 in productivity-loss per year.

I recently ran into a competitive situation with my business, ConnectSolutions, where an organization was comparing our service costs against a competitor.  However, the organization was not considering the fact that our solution increased productivity through ease-of-use and associated time-savings.  After I developed a model that showed the potential productivity boost (it was millions of dollars based on the size of the organization and average cost-per-employee/per year), they understood the true costs of both services.

That productivity boost got me thinking about what else we all spend our time on during the course of a workday that might impact productivity.  A quick search will tell you that Americans are spending, on average, 14 of their 74 minutes of online time on Facebook.  Mobile time spent might be more significant, but I don’t have ready access to those distribution stats.

Using that astonishing statistic, let’s make a few assumptions as inputs into our model.  First, I’ll assume that people are spending only 50% of their total Facebook usage during a given day during work hours.  After all, we are hard working Americans…right?

  • Time Spent On Facebook During Workday:  7 minutes

Next up, how many of us are sitting in front of computers with internet access each workday?  As a proxy, I’ll use the “knowledge worker” profile with an estimate of 30% of us American workers fall into.

  • Total Number of Internet-Connected Workers:  48,000,000 (30% of roughly 160M workers)

Ok, now let’s put these together to show how much time collectively we are spending on Facebook:

  • 48,000,000 worker * 7 minutes per day = 336,000,000 minutes per workday

Yikes, that’s a big number.  But how can we translate that into cost-per-employee?  Based on an average salary guestimate of $50,000 and 2000 work hours per year, we can assume a per-minute cost-per-employee of around $0.40/minute.  If we take that cost-per-minute and apply it to time employees are spending on Facebook, we get a big number…

  • Daily Productivity Cost due to Facebook Browsing:  $140,000,000

If we apply that to annual cost, we end up with a really scary number:

  • Annual US Employer Cost due to Facebook Browsing:  $28,000,000,000

Before thousands of IT organizations across the US race to block the facebook.com domain on their firewalls, it’s worth noting this is just a fun exercise and people’s actual usage patterns will vary widely.  We can also assume that there are some knowledge workers who aren’t using Facebook, or at least at work…

For those of you who also suffer from Twitter or HackerNews addictions, try your own model but avoid sharing the results with your employer!

Edit:  thanks to a reader for pointing out my exuberant use of an extra zero in my initial post…corrected…and still a very large number ;)

  • mclazerlou

    I’m not sure you can people would be working if they weren’t on Facebook. Daydreaming and doodling are endangered arts.

  • mclazerlou

    …can assume people…

  • Anonymous

    Feel free to tweak the formula above Lazerlou, your mileage may vary (knowing you…by a few hours per day)

  • Timmy
  • Kaitreya

    You multiplied the daily cost of facebook browsing by 2000 to get $280,000,000,000 per year. I’m pretty sure your number should be closer to $50,000,000,000 unless I’m missing something. Still a large number of course, but not quite as terrible.

  • http://work.failblog.org/2011/08/30/your-personal-time-is-costing-the-company-money-about-280000000000-per-year/ Your Personal Time Is Costing the Company Money (About $280,000,000,000 Per Year) – Work Fails & Job LOLs – Monday Through Friday

    [...] blog run by one Michael Fitzpatrick crunched the numbers and, by starting with an assumption and making several more assumptions, [...]

  • chooven

    So what your saying is if the average working spends 49 minutes per week thinking about work then Employers owe us 280,000,000,000 more a year??

  • Anonymous

    I like that idea a lot! u00a0:)

  • http://ridewithsilver.com/daily-link-roundup-joe-namath-is-still-the-king-of-talking Daily link roundup: Joe Namath is still the king of talking « Mike Silver

    [...] This man claims that Facebook costs US employers $28,000,000,000 in productivity each year. Oooo I wonder [...]

  • http://prbuilder.com/news/ceo-claims-facebook-costs-u-s-employers-28-billion-annually/ CEO claims Facebook costs U.S. employers $28 billion annually | PRbuilder.com

    [...] Here’s how he did the math. If you want to get it straight from the source, head over to Fitzpatrick’s blog. [...]

  • http://tec.nologia.com/2011/08/31/facebook-cuesta-280-000-000-000-al-ano-a-las-empresas/ Facebook cuesta 280.000.000.000 al año a las empresas

    [...] aseguran en estos cálculos cada trabajador pasa de media 7 minutos en Facebook, lo cuál parece una suposición optimista [...]

  • http://www.newshustler.com/?p=1094 Facebook Costs US Employers $280B Yearly

    [...] Facebook Costs US Employers $28,000,000,000 per year [thefitzpatrick] viaFacebook Costs US Employers $280,000,000,000 Per Year [buzzfeed] [...]

  • http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/facebook-a-huge-drain-on-the-u-s-economy-or-is-it-31-08-2011/ Facebook A Huge Drain On The U.S. Economy, Or Is It? » Geeky Gadgets

    [...] Source The Fitzpatricks [...]

  • Guest

    Real research has shown that people are actually more productive when they have short mindless breaks away from work throughout the day. There is not a single person that doesn’t take a few minutes break from working at least a few times throughout the day. Just because people are using facebook instead of drooling on their desk or talking to their co-workers doesn’t mean that facebook is costing businesses anything.n

  • http://twitter.com/shelholtz Shel Holtz

    Same old back-of-the-envelope nonsense. What about the hours beyond eight the employee works to make up for the time they spent on Facebook? What about actual value to the company that accrues to the company from that time (e.g., recruiting, product evangelizing, competitive intelligence, SME sourcing…)? What about work the employee takes home? And what about the increasing number of studies that report INCREASED productivity from employees who have access to Facebook? These baseless calculations just contribute to the fear, uncertainty and doubt that keeps companies from providing access — and the Altimeter study today reported that “advanced” companies all provide open access AND experience fewer social media crises and less of an impact from the crises they do encounter. But the fearmongers just can’t help themselves.nnnI curate resources that make the opposite (more rational) case:u00a0http://holtz.com/resources/social-media-access/. I also maintain a blog and wiki on the topic: http://www.stopblocking.org.

  • http://now100fm.radio.com/2011/08/31/facebook-costs-employers-billions-every-year/ Facebook Costs Employers Billions Every Year!

    [...] thefitzpatricks.net just did the math and guessing that people spend about 7 minutes a day on Facebook at work, it costs U.S. employers $28,000,000,000 in productivity-loss per year! [...]

  • Anonymous

    adjusted (added an extra zero)… u00a0thanks!

  • Anonymous

    The whole post was tongue-in-cheek: u00a0I use social networks (twitter, linkedin) extensively throughout my word day… u00a0that said, some substantial amount of “updates” on facebook prove to be totally useless (feel free to suggest I need new friends, etc…)

  • Anonymous

    Shel, this was intended to be a fun run with numbers, and I’m sorry that you are so offended. I encourage you to run your own numbers, as well as quantify some of the productivity gains you mention like working from home. u00a0I can provide some baselines if you like around telework since that’s been something I’ve enabled through technology for more than a decade.nnI don’t advocate blocking of any websites from my company’s network, and in fact, have personally coded Facebook apps for us and our customers. u00a0We use and promote social networks (particularly Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…) on a daily basis. u00a0I appreciate your passion for open access, and wish you the best of luck with the commercial practice you reference above in pursuit of that goal.

  • Anonymous

    “Guest” u00a0I agree. u00a0No one can work productively for 8 hours straight. u00a0That said, imagine if we chose to browse something more redeeming than knowing that someone just checked-in to an airport or restaurant. u00a0I’ve done all this before, but now I’m second-guessing myself.

  • http://www.techgear.gr/facebook-costs-us-employers-28-billion-dollars-per-year-28305/ Το Facebook κοστίζει στους εργοδότες των ΗΠΑ $28 δισ. το χρόνο

    [...] Fitzpatrick] Μείνετε συντονισμένοι με τα τελευταία νέα του [...]

  • http://www.weighticle.com/your-facebooking-is-ruining-the-economy-fyi/ Your Facebooking Is Ruining The Economy, FYI | Weighticle

    [...] Well, at least we’re not hanging out on Myspace. That would truly be a waste of time. [TheFitzpatricks.net] [...]

  • http://worldofgadgets.info/2011/09/01/facebook-a-terrible-drain-on-the-u-s-economy-or-is-this/ Facebook a terrible drain on the u.s. economy, or is this? | World Of Gadgets

    [...] the Fitzpatricks var addedComment = function(response) { //console.log('fbComments: Caught added [...]

  • Akcrn

    Nothing like getting shift report from a nurse who is texting or watching a nurse “farming” during her shift.u00a0 I believe it’s becoming a big problem in the health care field!

  • Timmy

    I highly doubt that. It looks like the post has been changed to make it a little more “tongue-in-cheek”. You are just getting called out for bad math and poor research methods, ie no research. Too bad this went viral, makes your company look bad as well.u00a0

  • Anonymous

    Timmy, the only change I made was removing a zero and noting that I did that in the body of the post. u00a0Sorry you are upset with me…not my intention.

  • Hajiamir

    I bet smart phones in general are worse. They include facebook, but you don’t need to have an internet connected pc for it.u00a0

  • Brotherchaplainflorence

    So your saying that the average worker is too stupid to multitask and look at Facebook while doing other things? Like how hard is it to answer the same stupid questions that they likely answer all day long while doing other things? Not hard. So no real loss there. Just a happier worker since their mind is at least partially occupied with something other than the same boring, easy, mostly mindless tasks they can asleep. nnSo whats lost? Take Facebook and other minor freedoms away, and you will loose more productivity to unhappy and disgruntled workers who are now resentful and bitter over a few minutes of time that a company could theoretically loose.

  • http://screwjobhunting.com/2012/03/11/dear-mark-zuckerberg-8-2/ Is Facebook killing the job market? « screwjobhunting

    [...] To be fair, a blogger named Michael Fizpatrick estimated this number.  But it wasn’t a completely arbitrary figure. (The blog post can be found at http://www.thefitzpatricks.net/2011/07/26/facebook-costs-us-employers-280000000000-per-year/). [...]