Over 90 per cent of ICT professionals from UK public and private organisations believe that access to social networking websites should be restricted or banned.

Research by Bloxx claimed that the biggest concerns for IT managers are staff productivity, network security risks and damage to corporate reputation. However, the research demonstrated that social networking is increasingly being used as a valuable business tool and access is required to harness the benefits these sites can bring to businesses.

The research found that over 22 per cent of respondents do not have any controls in place for staff accessing social networking sites. With the survey showing that staff spend an average of 30 minutes each per day accessing social networking sites, companies are potentially providing an additional 16 days paid holiday for each employee.

When asked if organisations should restrict access to social networking sites in the workplace, 54 per cent said access to sites should be restricted during core business hours, with access only during breaks. Thirty-five per cent said access should be banned completely in the workplace, while nine per cent said that access to sites should be unrestricted in the workplace.

Commenting, a private sector user said: “It is my belief that social networking sites should be banned in the workplace during core hours. I can see how it could keep productivity up with some staff if they had access to these sites during break times.”

With research showing that 40 per cent of managers believe that employees spend less than 15 minutes per day online and 26 per cent believe that between 15 and 30 minutes a day are spent on social networking sites, a private sector user said: “Before we banned all use, there were a few members of staff spending upwards of four hours per day on social websites. We have blocked all sites 24/7 but I personally think we should allow some (restricted) access as I believe this can help with staff morale."

Eamonn Doyle, chief executive officer at Bloxx, said: “UK businesses really can't afford to underestimate social networking use in the workplace. However, our view is that a complete ban is unrealistic and adopting this approach means that companies can't obtain the potential business benefits of social networking.

“It really doesn't have to be all or nothing with social networking - the strategy ICT managers need to adopt is one that combines employee education, well-thought-out acceptable use policies and effective, discriminating, cutting-edge web filtering technology.”