How would you feel if you knew Facebook and Twitter usage at the workplace was costing your economy upwards of 2 billion dollars per year in lost productivity?

Leave it to The Economist to dig up the most unpleasant numbers about the amount of time and money social business applications are sucking out of the workplace. They reported that last year an IT company called Morse estimated that personal use of social networks during the work day was costing the British economy almost £1.4 billion per year. On the stars and stripes side, an American firm called Nucleus Research found that if companies banned employees from using Facebook while at work, their productivity would improve by 1.5%.

Can’t you just feel the I told you so’s? But hold on just a minute—let’s consider a few things: First of all, not a single technological revolution has happened without casualties. It’s as natural to rally against The New now as it has been in the past. Secondly, think about what would happen if social computing was suddenly completely removed from the enterprise scene. It's already so integral in the workplace that we imagine taking it away would yield a similar reaction as forbidding e-mail exchanges. Oh, the pandemonium!

Yammer Away

Finding a middle ground between full-blown social networking and up-to-date business communication tools has certainly been a challenge, but Enterprise 2.0 is trying. Tailor-made social solutions for the corporate world are on the rise. Take for instance the enterprise microblogging tool Yammer, which just scored US$ 10 million in funding.

Sure, there are concerns about privacy and leaking information, but the bottom line is that we've reached the point of no return. Turning our backs on social computing would be devolving in a quickly changing environment. So, what to do? Make sure you're working with good people. “If you trust your employees, then you have nothing to worry about when deploying a social network,” says Eugene Lee, the chief executive of Socialtext, which provides social-media services to firms.

Public Beta Welcomes SAP's Enterprise Collaboration Tool 

Though the focus on e-readers like the iPad and gadgets like Nexus One have seemingly eclipsed recently popular solutions like Google Wave, teams are still working to provide their own enterprise version of the collaboration mashup.

SAP's collaboration tool -- codenamed 12Sprints -- is about to enter public beta. We've talked about the "virtual war room" before, noting that it aims to aggressively solve problems by fostering debates among employees. Available activities within the tool include a pro vs. con chart and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) matrix.

Verbal battles at work? It's no wonder people are interested. "When you're in the enterprise, in the workforce, you're often frustrated," explained David Meyer, senior vice president of Emerging Technologies. "A lot of that has to do with systems you're forced to use. We want to empower people to do their best work whatever way they want."

Go with the Flow

Make more sense out of the rapid changes happening in the enterprise by attending some events. This month sees the SharePoint Technology conference 2010 for those looking to migrate over to SharePoint Server 2010 as well as those sticking with the 2007 version. 

Also taking place in February is the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) where you'll get to hear all about the 10 Golden Principles for Successful Web Apps from Fred Wilson. 

Feel like mixing a little pleasure with your business? There's also the Pink Elephant IT Service Management Conference taking place in Las Vegas.