Culture | November 28, 2014

Working Around Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving when online storefronts like Amazon, Zappos, and Macy’s trot out their best holiday deals, has become a bigger event in the retail world than Black Friday. Sales for Cyber Monday hit $2.9 billion last year alone, totaling 31.5% more than Black Friday sales figures, and this year is poised to be no different. However, Cyber Monday is also a work day, and its allure is so strong that many employees are openly planning to do some online shopping while at the office.

Holiday Weekend

In a Cyber Monday study by Harris Interactive, they found that while 1 in 5 employers say they’ve fired someone for using the Internet for a non-work related activity, 54% of employees planned to spend one to three hours browsing online deals throughout the course of the holiday season. It seems the holiday season is when Americans’ obsession with work collides with our obsession for shopping, producing mixed results.

To be fair, a majority of employees polled made it clear they would be waiting until their lunch or break time to shop, but everyone is savvy enough to know that some, if not many, will be shopping on the clock in the morning when the best deals are available. As it stands now you won’t be able to stop Cyber Monday from arriving, but here are some important things both managers and employees should remember when the day arrives:

We work best in 90-minute bursts with 15 minute breaks in between: Human beings operate on Ultradian rhythms, which allow us to focus on a task for around 90 minutes before becoming mentally fatigued. Taking a 15 minute break at these intervals recharges our mental capacity and makes it easier to stay productive over the course of a day. Shopping for 15 minutes after 90 minutes of work can actually be good for productivity, as long as it’s done in a disciplined manner.

Online shopping is one distraction out of many competing for your employees’ attention: Social media, downward email spirals, meetings, water-cooler chat, and a host of other things can mar productivity before online shopping can. In other words, it’s manageable. Only extreme cases will cause disruption, and your corporate Internet policy may have already limited access to many of the sites in question.

The Holiday season is historically a time of lowered productivity: The holidays are a hectic time for everyone, and productivity is affected by this, Cyber Monday or not. According to Robert Half International, over one-third of senior managers said their employees were less productive in the weeks leading up to a holiday, and it’s a recurring phenomenon.

The Season of Giving

While you certainly shouldn’t be encouraging online shopping during office hours, it’s good to consider that it can be a challenge for employees to strike a balance between personal and work obligations during the holiday season, and some holiday shopping may spill over into the workplace. But try not to be a Scrooge about it—productivity may dip slightly on Cyber Monday, but it’s nothing compared to the drop in morale an Internet “crackdown” so close to the holidays will create. Be generous with the gift of time over the holidays, and your employees will repay you with hard work in the New Year.

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