Are You Concerned About Your Employees Shopping Online This Year?

It’s a big story every year: some of your employees are going to shop online and they are going to do it on your computers during your time. And what better time to focus on it than Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving, the self-appointed big online shopping day of the year)?

Are you scared yet?

Here’s the real question: if you haven’t noticed a problem before, will this discovery change that? And maybe more importantly, if you’ve noticed a problem with online shopping killing productivity, why haven’t you figured out how to deal with it?

A question of priorities

While I’ve had a lot of success around the holidays getting people on the phone, setting up meetings and the like, we also know that many employers see a dip in productivity during this time period. Whether it be extended breaks (and getting ramped in and out of those vacations) or just general feelings of lethargy (Seattle only had nine hours of daylight yesterday, and it isn’t like it’s sunshine either), it just seems like that’s the reality of the holiday season.

So there’s a legitimate question as to how much productivity is lost to online shopping versus just the general holiday productivity issues.

CareerBuilder was kind enough to give us an early look at their annual survey of workplace Internet usage (which will be released Sunday before the big online shopping day). The results gives us a glimpse into how much it might impact the workplace. For example:

  1. 50 percent of American workers plan to spend time holiday shopping online at work this season (down slightly from 52 percent in 2010);
  2. 34 percent of those workers will spend one hour or more shopping (up from 27 percent last year); and,
  3. 16 percent of those workers will spend two or more hours shopping (up from 13 percent in 2010).

And that’s with the finding that the firms surveyed continue to increase their monitoring of Internet usage. The nerve, right?

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Should a priority be put on squashing this activity?

Obviously, it’s up to the company. But I think my colleague John Hollon had a valid point in his post last year about this subject:

Now, I am not advocating that employees be allowed to simply web surf and shop all day on the company’s dime.

What I am saying is that smart, forward-thinking companies know that it makes sense to cut their workers some slack. They know, as so many in Silicon Valley have known, that you get the most out of your people when you treat them like adults and help them to balance work and life. And giving them the ability to do some of their holiday shopping online, from the office, when they have some downtime, will go a long way to helping fuel higher levels of employee engagement.

So cut your workers some slack today. Don’t get too worked up about Cyber Monday and about workers doing a little of their shopping online. Given all that America’s workforce has gone through the last few years, they surely deserve it – and, you don’t want to play cyber cop anyway.”

Treat people like adults, hold them accountable for their work and don’t focus on policing, focus on results. Seems like a good policy to me.

Other interesting findings

Even though CareerBuilder’s survey is timed to be released before Cyber Monday to give focus to the online shopping part of the study, there were a couple of the more interesting stats that came from it:

  • 22 percent of employers have fired someone for using the Internet for non-work related activity.
  • 7 percent of HR managers surveyed have fired an employee for holiday shopping.
  • 54 percent of employers block employees from accessing certain websites.
  • 56 percent of workers on social networks check their profiles during their typical work days
  • 25 percent of employers report adopting stricter policies during the last year in regard to employees communicating about company on social media.

All of it worth contemplating and figuring out if it aligns with what you’re seeing in your business.

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2 Comments on “Are You Concerned About Your Employees Shopping Online This Year?

  1. I am surprised that this is still happening.  The origins of Cyber Monday go back to when businesses/employers where the only place to access high speed internet which made online shopping much more convenient.  This is not the case today as most households have high speed internet connections allowing people to shop online whenever they please. 

    I’m OK if an employee can get their holiday shopping done by using the company computer and internet connection.  Anything that allows them to get a stressful task complete quickly and back to concentrating on work sooner is fine with me.   

  2. Black Friday and Cyber Monday should be declared national holidays. After all, 70 percent of this country’s economy is based on consumer spending. “In God We Trust” is on our currency and Wall Street is the symbol of success. Spending orgies should be encouraged to grow our economy.

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