The Facebook outage impacted productivity, but not in the way you may think…


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On Monday, Oct. 4, Facebook-owned apps and services (including Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Workplace, and others) experienced an unplanned ~5-hour outage that affected more than 3.5 billion users globally. For much of North and Central America, the outage occurred during typical workday hours.

It dominated commentary and conversations on surviving social media channels, such as Twitter, and quickly became a cautionary tale for network architecture—especially related to Facebook apps and services that serve critical business functions. ActivTrak data from the day revealed a number of notable shifts in employee behavior and business productivity relative to Sept. 2021 averages, and some of them may surprise you. 

Initially, our hypothesis was this: Facebook goes down. Productivity goes up. But we quickly realized it was dismissive to assume that a decrease in access to top social media apps and sites would yield an increase in productivity. When we revisited the data with more context and nuance, more insights came to light. Unsurprisingly, on the day of the outage, the time spent on apps and sites categorized as social media (8.2 minutes) was 37% lower than the Sept. 2021 average. Surprisingly however, average productive time (6.8 hours) reflected a 9% drop.

While counter to our initial assumption, two factors could have accounted for this: 1) the drop may be attributed to the loss of business functions that rely on Facebook apps and services (marketing and international communications roles); and 2) microbreaks with activities like social media can have a positive impact on well-being, brain function, and productivity, leading to restored attention and motivation and increased creativity for higher levels of performance. 

Meanwhile, there were 6% fewer occurrences (times a user opens an app/site) of non-business related activities compared to previous Sept. figures—a correlating increase (16%) in the time spent on sites categorized as news and entertainment, where users shifted their attention to stay connected and informed. 

Additionally, the length of breaks (idle computer time, collected after 2 minutes of employee inactivity) was 7% shorter. This could be attributed to having fewer opportunities for distraction on personal devices such as phones. 

It’s clear that the Facebook outage impacted typical work behaviors and may be a bellwether for when other popular tools and platform outages occur. No service provider is immune to outages. A deeper understanding of how and when work gets done can help your organization prepare for, reduce the risk, and mitigate future outages of any kind. 

With ActivTrak, you can have immediate access to technology usage insights that can help you flag critical dependencies to plan for how to adapt if one or more tools are inaccessible. 

Workforce analytics are critical to optimize performance and outcomes in any scenario and quickly respond to outages that are beyond an organization’s control. The right technical and cultural capabilities can help your organization adapt on the fly and preserve productivity and business continuity. How do outages impact your organization? Do you have the capabilities to identify or anticipate risk and adjust accordingly? 

About ActivTrak and The Productivity Lab

ActivTrak helps companies unlock productivity potential. Our award-winning workforce productivity and analytics software provides expert insights that empower people, optimize processes, and maximize technology. With data sourced from more than 9,000 customers and 250,000 users, ActivTrak’s Productivity Lab is a global center for ground-breaking workforce productivity research and expertise that helps companies embrace and embody the future of work.