Companies in the UK don't look too kindly on us workers having the occassional peek at our Facebook profile page during work hours.

But a think tank says that this attitude, and the fact that some companies even block access to these sorts of sites, could be damaging to firms in the long run.

Demos argues, instead, that companies should try and recognise the social value of sites such as Facebook and Bebo.

Peter Bradwell from Demos explains: "They are part of the way in which people communicate which they find intuitive", he said.

"Banning Facebook and the like goes against the grain of how people want to interact. Often people are friends with colleagues through these networks and it is how some develop their relationships."

Bradwell added that LinkedIn and in-house software was allowing colleagues to share ideas online, but social networks still have a part to play.

"In today's difficult business environment, the instinctive reaction can be to batten down the hatches and return to the traditional command-and-control techniques that enable managers to closely monitor and measure productivity."

"Allowing workers to have more freedom and flexibility might seem counter-intuitive, but it appears to create businesses more capable of maintaining stability."

"Being able to see a photo of colleagues, or knowing what they are up to, can be incredibly useful for businesses, especially if a firm employs thousands of people", added Mark Turrell, chief executive of Imaginatik, which develops bespoke networking software and whose firm took part in the study.