Employers are gradually tightening the reins on which websites their staff can view and are increasingly choosing to block access to popular social networking sites.

New statistics from ScanSafe showed that 76 per cent of companies are choosing to block social networking and it is now a more popular category to block than online shopping (52 per cent) or weapons (75 per cent).

It also found that there has been a 20 per cent increase in the number of companies blocking social networking websites in the last six months. The analysis was done of more than a billion web requests processed by the company each month.

Spencer Parker, director of product management at ScanSafe, said: “When web filtering first became an option for companies we generally saw them block access to typical categories such as pornography, illegal activities and hate and discrimination.

“In recent months, employers are obviously wising up to the dangers and negative impact on productivity linked to certain sites and more and more of our customers have chosen to block social networking, online banking and Webmail.”

ScanSafe claimed that in economic times such as these, having a productive workforce is more important than ever and companies are now often expecting employees to work harder for less. Therefore restricting access to non-work related sites could be a way to encourage this much needed productivity.

“Social networking sites can expose businesses to malware and if not used for business purposes can be a drain on productivity and bandwidth,” said Parker.

“Given the option, companies are increasingly taking a sterner approach to the sites that their employees are allowed to access. I imagine before long, social networking will be up there with pornography in terms of categories blocked.”