HR News & Trends

Forget Black Friday: Half of Employees Will Shop From Work This Season

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I have a hard time getting my hands around Cyber Monday and the concerns about workers doing a little holiday shopping online.

Some employers still spend a great of time and effort trying to stop it altogether, but with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, trying to stop it is like trying to use your fingers to stop leaks in the dike. Yes, you may slow it down a bit, but you won’t really halt it.

That’s why the CareerBuilder Cyber Monday Internet Usage study is always so interesting — because it gives you a good sense of how much employers sneak in a little online shopping while on the job.

Half of all workers will shop online this season

According to CareerBuilder, almost half of all workers — 49 percent “expect to spend some time in the office this holiday season shopping online.” That’s about the same as in past years.

The study also found that “more than a quarter of workers plan to shop from work either on Black Friday (12 percent) or Cyber Monday (16 percent),” figures that seem a little understated to me — especially on Black Friday, because, as savvy HR pro Tim Sackett noted yesterday here on TLNT, “The Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday has to be the most useless day of work ever.”

Here are some more findings from the CareerBuilder Cyber Monday Internet Usage study

  • Shopping from the office is most common in the weeks leading up to December 25, with 30 percent saying they’re most likely to shop from work after December 7.
  • A higher percentage of women (43 percent) have shopped online while at the office, compared to men (36 percent).
  • Some 25 percent of employers have fired someone for using the Internet for non-work related activity.
  • Another 7 percent of hiring managers have fired an employee for holiday shopping at work.
  • Over half of all employers — 53 percent — block employees from accessing certain websites.

Employers getting more lenient?

“Employers tend to be more lenient when it comes to workers using breaks or down time to get online and — in some cases — take care of some online shopping,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the study.

But, she added this word of warning: “However, it is the employee’s responsibility to know and adhere to their company’s policy regarding Internet usage. Be aware of how you spend time on the Web, and don’t let your holiday shopping get in the way of your productivity.”

I agree with all of that, but I also think that employers need to continue to recognize that being more flexible and accepting of the many pressures of the holiday season will be dividends in the long run. And, allowing their workers to use their discretion and do a little online shopping here and there might actually same them some time and keep them plugging away on the job a little more as a result.

Why you should encourage workers to shop online

Here’s what I said about all of this back in 2009, and I think it applies just as much now as it did back then:

Your most highly engaged workers are probably your hardest-working ones as well. And as so many Silicon Valley tech firms and dot-coms have recognized, offering perks and benefits that help workers to better manage their lives also frees them up to spend more time focusing on the job. In other words, cutting workers some slack and recognizing that you can’t compartmentalize work and home life all that well anymore actually can fuel higher levels of employee engagement.

Encouraging workers to do some online shopping this holiday season will: A) show workers you’re willing to be flexible during a tough year; B) help them to better balance their work and home lives; and c) probably help, ultimately, to make them more engaged and focused on the job.

Plus, encouraging online shopping (within reason, of course) also discourages workers from feeling that they have to sneak around and try to do it on the sly, which happens all too frequently in all too many workplaces.

And one more thing: Isn’t this one of those little perks that you can offer your workforce that has nothing to do with money? Isn’t it one of those little “psychic” benefits that consultants always tout as being highly valuable in lieu of more dough?”

I don’t see how any manager or executive can quibble with that, but I would love to hear from any of you who do.

The CareerBuilder Cyber Monday Internet Usage study was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder among 2,494 U.S. hiring managers and human resource professionals and 3,976 workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) ages 18 and over between August 13 and September 6, 2012.

John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of TLNT.com, and the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices. Contact him at john@tlnt.com, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnhollon.
  • SOI

    If employees are meeting goals on time and with high-quality results, why not let them shop online in their down time. People keep a to-do list in their head and many don’t separate a stressful work-related to-do from a stressful holiday-related to-do list. If an employee can check off a few holiday items during a break, they’ll be more focused for the remainder of the day. Here’s a related article about companies considering the social benefits they offer to employees. http://wp.me/p2PHSg-if