Employees Shopping At Work!

    November 29, 2005

Hysteria in the form of statistics is making another appearance, and no doubt thousands of business leaders will jerk their Italian suit-covered knees and take steps to do something about it.

This time, the frothing mouths are spewing forth warnings about employees shopping online when they should be working. According to a story on CNNMoney.com, Cyber Monday is the online equivalent of Black Friday. Black Friday, for those outside of the U.S., is the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar stores. It’s called Black Friday because it’s the day retailers move out of the red and into the black.

Cyber Monday is the first day back at work when North American Internet traffic spikes 35% as workers return to work for the first day after the Thanksgiving holiday and hit the online stores during work hours.

More than one-third of the 1,891 consumers who were also polled for the Shop.org report said they will use Internet access at work where they have faster Internet connections to buy their gifts this holiday season.

I remember interviewing a CEO several years ago for an article I was writing about the myth of wasted time when it comes to employees using the Web at work for non-work-related purposes. The CEO noted that he would much rather have an employee use a florist website to send Mother’s Day flowers than have him leave the premises to drive to a florist. He was enlightened enough to understand that letting employees use a reasonable amount of time online for something unrelated to work could actdually improve productivity. And that’s not to mention improved job satisfaction leading to higher levels of employee engagement which has been shown to correlate to double-digit growth.

Further (as I’ve repeated here often), most employees who spend time online at work either stay longer to make up the time or take work home. I saw a study a couple years ago (sorry, can’t recall the source) that suggested employees spend 1.5 hours at home doing work for every hour they spend at work engaged in non-work-related activities. The real measure of whether employee time spent online is cutting into productivity is to assess whether employee output is falling behind, deadlines aren’t being met, or quality is suffering. If none of these things are happening, chill out and leave the hysterics to less enlightened managers.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.