x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UAE professionals among the most active on social network sites

A global survey has found that, despite restricted access in most UAE workplaces, sites such as Facebook remain hugely popular among staff.

UAE professionals are among the most active users of social networking sites such as Facebook despite restrictive internet access policies at work, according to a new survey. Around two-thirds (66 per cent) of people use social and professional networking sites up to three times a week, the poll found.

However, more than half of those questioned said they were banned from visiting the websites at work. This makes companies in the UAE the most restrictive of the 13 countries surveyed. Only people in Brazil, Spain and Ireland identified themselves as more active users than those in the UAE, according to the poll by the recruitment firm Robert Half. Two-thirds of UAE residents said their use of networking sites was "somewhat active", classified as at least two to three times a week, while almost a third (30 per cent) used them daily.

That compares with a global average of 27 per cent who described their use as "somewhat active" and 22 per cent who were daily users. "Typically when companies consider the use of sites like Facebook or Twitter at work, they think about lost time spent on the internet," said James Sayer, the associate director of Robert Half UAE. "And to be sure, there is the potential for such sites to be abused, but as this survey demonstrates, the bulk of professionals in the UAE turn to social and professional networking sites to keep in touch with colleagues, learn about developments in the profession and for recruitment.

"This would indicate that most think of online networking as an extension of traditional, face-to-face networking, rather than only a place where they can post photos of themselves from parties." The sites' popularity comes despite 54 per cent of people reporting that they were forbidden from accessing them at work - 17 points higher than the global average. The Netherlands was the least restrictive country, with only 14 per cent of workers reporting that they were unable to view these sites in the office.

"One reason why these websites are so popular is that it is simply an extension of the Middle Eastern culture of chatting and joking," said Toby Haws, 32, the manager of Al Hamra Yacht Club. The line between social and business networking sites is becoming increasingly blurred, with firms and individuals using Facebook to market products and themselves. Sally Meech, the PR and marketing manager of the Media One Hotel in Dubai's Media City, said her company would regularly "tweet" about special offers. "Social networking sites are an essential part of our strategy to communicate with our customer base."

Around 3,000 people participated in the survey. chamilton@thenational.ae