The research from the University of Bergen (UiB), Norway, shows that managers are more critical of private use of social media at work. However, middle managers and top executives are most negative to private social media use at work.
"It is very interesting that top executives, who are negative to private web-surfing during working hours, are the ones who surf the most for private purposes when at work," said Postdoctoral Fellow Cecilie Schou Andreassen at UiB's Department of Psychosocial Science.
She suggests that this can be explained by the fact that top executives have longer working hours and work and leisure are much more integrated than it is for employees.
"It is likely that managers are worried about reductions in output and financial loss as a result of use of private social media among their employees," said Andreassen.
About 11,000 Norwegian employees participated in the study.
The study also found that younger employees use social media for private purposes more than older employees do.
Men browse the internet more for private purposes than women do during working hours. People with higher education are the most active social media users, researchers said.
Singles are more active on social media than those in relationships. Extrovert and nervous people are more active online, they found.
"Social media probably has a greater social function for singles than it has for people in relationships," said Andreassen.
Those with higher education and socioeconomic status are likely more familiar with computer use, which may explain why they are more active online than those with lower education.
Their work situation may also provide more opportunities to engage in private use of social media at work compared to those with lower education.
"The finding may also reflect that people with a high socioeconomic status, are not as afraid to lose their job as those in low-status jobs," said Andreassen.
The study also showed that people who are outgoing, so-called extrovert personalities, and neurotic people spend more time online and on social media for personal purposes during working hours than their counterparts.
People who are organised and punctual, however, spend the least time online for personal purposes during working hours, researchers said.