Over half of U.S. workers will shop online while on the job this Cyber Monday. That's double the number of "work shoppers" from just a few years ago, according to recent research conducted by Robert Half Technology.
Once an activity only those with desk jobs could get away with, experts point to the ease in which retailers have now made shopping from smartphones as one of the primary drivers of this dramatic increase in online shopping while at work.
And while most workers will browse during their lunch breaks, a surprising number will shop all day long, with 44% admitting that their productivity suffers as they surf for the best deals.
Among 28 U.S. cities in the survey, Phoenix tops the list of cities with employees who admit to this hit in productivity, with San Diego and Austin following close behind.
So what can be done about this workplace productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. In fact, in a separate survey also conducted by Robert Half, 77% of technology leaders said their firms allow "workshopping", but more than half of these same respondents (52%) indicated a preference for employees to not shop from work. (See infographic.)
So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.
This is also an opportunity for employers to showcase their philanthropic commitment. For certain purchases, sites like Amazon Smile will donate a portion of your total purchase price to the charity of your choice. Why not offer to match each employees’ charitable donation up to a predetermined threshold?
To pull all this off, we recommend establishing a pre-sanctioned time for online shopping, and to formalize it into a company policy/agreement. Set dedicated shopping windows for your employees. For example, assign a one or two-hour window for employees to shop to their hearts’ content - perhaps first thing in the morning (when anxiety is high that they are missing out on deals), or a few hours later, after weekend emails and voicemails have been flushed out of the system.
Establishing a sanctioned “shop-time” agreement with your employees is an excellent way to demonstrate your support of work-life balance while maintaining productivity within your organization. Also make sure to take this opportunity to remind your employees of your company’s computer use policies related to e-commerce safe/trusted sites. After all, research indicates that 31 percent of employees don’t know their company’s workplace policies regarding online shopping and personal internet usage during work hours (hopefully you have yours documented in your employee handbook).
Keep in mind that success here rests in your succinct communications strategy and ensuring that your employees are educated on your IT security and at-work online shopping policies.
Bring in Lunch
One of the very best ways employers can eliminate a major productivity killer on Cyber Monday is by providing lunch to the staff. Nothing speaks to the heart like food and your employees will appreciate the gesture of a company-provided meal. Of course, the major benefit of this action is that it eliminates the need for your employees to make a lunch run - a productivity killer if ever there was one.
With the average employee taking up to 60 minutes for lunch, with much of the time spent driving to and from their favorite dining destinations (say nothing of a lunch run to a strip-mall or a shopping mall food court this time of year), an onsite free lunch pays off in dividends.
Mondays get a bad rap, and for good reason. They can be overwhelming; riddled with time killers such as clearing out email and voice messages received over the weekend, and of course, the dreaded Monday staff meeting. Coming on the heels of the long Thanksgiving break, these time killers are only exacerbated, and playing catch-up can feel like an uphill battle, most especially when your employees feel like they’re missing out on great online shopping opportunities.
Do yourself a favor and consider postponing non-critical meetings during Cyber Monday. If you do hold them, you should consider banning laptops and smartphones, lest you hold a meeting where no one is paying attention due to their preoccupation with multi-tasking for online deals.If the meetings are unavoidable, just be sure to make them as efficient as possible. (One of our favorite ideas is to make everyone stand, rather than sit, thus ensuring verbosity is kept to a minimum.)
Extend Mailroom Privileges
While this last idea will pay off all holiday season long, it bears mentioning here, most especially for those super organized shoppers who get their gifts in the mail right away...
Holiday season at the post office makes a trip to the DMV look like a walk in the park. First comes the battle in the parking lot for a space, followed by long lines flowing out the door. Consider easing some of this strain by allowing your employees to ship their packages from the office.
You don’t need to pick up the shipping costs since most carriers provide functionality for print-and-ship labels to be affixed to outgoing packages. Carriers like UPS also offer the convenience of on-call pickups. The process is much easier and far less time intrusive than the alternative and your employees will thank you.
Similarly, allowing your employees to have their packages delivered to the office throughout the holidays is another great way you can eliminate, for your employees, the needless distraction of a trip to the post office or other designated destination to receive deliveries requiring a signature and/or those which are perishable. (Nothing is more frustrating than waiting at home for a delivery or having to drive to some remote warehouse district to pick-up a FedX or UPS package from central processing before it gets returned to the sender.)
The Origin of Cyber Monday
As the online counterpart to Black Friday, the term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by Ellen Davis, Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the National Retail Federation, after retailers reported recurring spikes in online sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving.
With millions of Americans returning to work after a four-day stint filled with the overindulgence of food, football, and brick and mortar shopping sprees, high-speed internet, prevalently found at work sites, offered yet another opportunity for consumers to gluttonously feed their need for instant shopping gratification, unfortunately, while on the company’s dime.
Today, through smartphone penetration, mobile optimization and the prevalence of residential high-speed internet, consumers can now shop till they drop from virtually anywhere on the planet, which begs the question, why the continued push for a dedicated online shopping event?
For one, old habits are hard to break and the idea of squeezing one more item in the shopping cart is as infectious as the holiday season is on a whole. And two, if you sell it, they will come. Americans more than any other nation loves our toys and great deals, and keeping up with the Jones’ has never been easier, from 4K Ultra HD curved screens to wireless Bluetooth devices, we simply can’t get enough.
Final Thoughts on Managing Worker Productivity on Cyber Monday and Beyond
Let’s face it, some of the deals to be had on Cyber Monday are pretty spectacular, and it’s tough to resist the temptation to shop at work, especially when most of us probably didn’t accomplish all the shopping we wanted to on Black Friday and the weekend which followed.
And it’s only getting worse, with Adobe Analytics expecting online sales to hit $9.4 billion this Cyber Monday, up 19% from last year's historic one-day record for online sales, which were up 17% from year prior.
Net, Cyber Monday is likely a temptation your employees will have a hard time resisting. It’s for that reason that the Society For Human Resource Management even suggests that companies should embrace the day, yet manage it carefully.
Maintaining employee productivity throughout the holidays is a concern which extends beyond just Cyber Monday. If you need help developing more ideas, your trusted benefits adviser should be able to point you in the right direction.
How are you managing employee productivity during the holidays? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below or contact us. We’d love to hear from you.