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  • Writer's pictureRyan P. Cleary

How to Balance Workplace Productivity & Holiday Shopping

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Welcome to FloatMe! Each week we post articles to help employers support their employees, run a streamlined workplace, and develop financial wellness. At the bottom of this article, we've included some best practices to help your employees keep safe during the holiday season.

For millions of Americans, today is their first day back at work; for millions of others, this is their busiest day of the year: Cyber Monday. With Black Friday already passed, many employees will be eagerly looking to get some of their holiday shopping done early, which can be a problem for workplace productivity and could be a risk for their finances- but does it need to be?

What is Cyber Monday?

Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday after Thanksgiving, when many retailers offer deals on products and services, similar to Black Friday. The key difference is that Cyber Monday took place almost entirely online. In recent years the lines between Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become increasingly blurred, with extended deals and both in-person and online deals on both days.

Balancing Deals With Productivity

With nearly half of all North American Employees admitting to shopping at work on Cyber Monday, many employers are concerned about how this productivity loss impacts their bottom line. With up to 64% of employees surveyed indicated plans to shop on company-owned devices throughout the holiday season. Some employers may be tempted to take drastic actions to avoid losing this productivity including blacklisting certain retail websites, shutting down web-access (which is increasingly less feasible), and even threatening termination (7% of managers said they terminated an employee for holiday shopping during work hours). We suggest considering other options; last year more than 43% of shoppers used a personal mobile device to complete transactions and surveys estimate that most (77%) employees spend under two hours online shopping at work. Including lunches and typical non-productivity, this may not be much different than a typical Monday (>26% of internet time is used for non-workplace reasons). So what's an employer to do?

Don't be a Grinch

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. With most employees employing mobile devices it is virtually impossible to prevent workplace shopping. Instead, employers can introduce guidelines, take soft actions, and offer incentives to reduce productivity loss. For employees, taking advantage of holiday deals isn't just a luxury- it may be their only opportunity to afford nice gifts while remaining financially healthy. We've listed a few alternatives to shutting down the internet.

Be Clear About Your Internet Usage Policy

Most employees are not completely familiar with all the details of company policies. Having a simple online policy year-round can help. Either allow internet usage while on the clock, or don't. Allow personal shopping, or don't. Simplifying helps employees remember the rules easily and gives you grounds to justify discipline.

Remind Employees of Your Policies

Before the holiday season and throughout, send out a company-wide memo reminding everyone of your policies, explaining why they're important, and expressing your appreciation of your employees' hard work.

Abide by Your Own Policies and be Present

No one likes a hypocrite. If you issue a policy and set expectations for employees, lead from the front. On heavy shopping days such as Cyber Monday, walk around the office and engage with employees- even if they shop on their phones your presence is a visual reminder that there is still work to be done and that you're in the trenches with them.

Offer Alternatives

Many employees desire the opportunity to save and are willing to work within workplace parameters. Consider meeting them halfway.

Extended Lunch or Breaks

Since the vast majority of employees expect to spend less than two hours on holiday shopping, why not allow them to shop on their own time? Extend their lunch hours or breaks throughout the day to accommodate and set expectations that other hours should be spent only on company business.

Flexible Hours

Not every role can be flexible, but for those that can introducing some limited flex hours or remote-days during the holiday season can help ensure work continues unabated. Allowing employees room to run errands, shop online, prepare for the holidays, or even deal with altered school schedules will help them remain productive. If the work gets done, does it matter when?

Financial Incentives

Some employers have taken a step further and decided to address employees' financial motivations to shop during the holidays. These employers allow some online shopping but are offering small bonuses to employees who refrain from shopping during work time. The jury is still out on whether this works (and how challenging it is to implement) but it is another option.

Help Your Employees Shop Safe

In reality, most employees are going to shop regardless, whether that be on their mobile devices, work computers, or personal computers. As an employer, this introduces some security risks for you and also can leave your employees at risk for financial loss or identity fraud. We've assembled a quick guide you can share with your employees to help them stay safe during the holiday shopping season.

Use Strong Passwords for Online Accounts: When possible, create strong unique passwords. This helps avoid account access by unauthorized users. Here is a good guide for how to do so.

Shop at credible sites: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Major retailers and known online storefronts usually offer great deals during the holiday season. If you find an item priced far below what it is being sold for at familiar places be cautious: it may be a scam.

Do not click email links: Many scams, phishing attacks, and other risks come to your inbox and are accessed via links. We suggest typing the website directly into your search bar and then applying coupon codes. If you forget, and least check the site URL you are sent to; make sure it is spelled correctly.

Shop on secure websites: If you check the URL during checkout, make sure it starts with "https://" and is not just "http://". Secure websites carry additional certificates and protection for your information. Your URL will also typically include a padlock.

Update security patches on your computer and antivirus: Most viruses and malware targets security gaps in your operating system. Installing updates will help close those gaps and help your antivirus recognize known threats.

Have an antivirus installed: There are many free and paid antivirus suites available. Download and install one before holiday shopping if your computer is unprotected.

Only shop on private internet connections: These are connections where you must provide some type of credential when connecting (usually a username and password). Open connections, like those found in coffee shops, can easily be breached allowing third parties to "eavesdrop" on your web traffic.

Do not save credit/debit card information on websites: The fewer places it is saved, the less likely someone else will be able to access it.

Shop using a credit card or digital wallet: Adding an extra layer of protection between third party websites and your bank account helps keep it safe. If identity fraud occurs, usually credit card companies and digital wallets are able to provide credit and funds are not directly pulled out of your bank account. Debit cards should be treated like handing out your bank account information.

Watch for fake shopping apps: Shopping apps have grown in popularity over the past five years. When downloading a retailers app, ensure that it matches their logo/colors, was created by them, and has a substantial number of reviews. Even better, download it from a link on the retailers website.

Report fraud and security breaches immediately: If your bank account is breached, credit card information is stolen, or you fall prey to a phishing scheme do not wait to report it. In the busy holiday season, it is easy to forget and miss the window to recover your funds. If you login information is stolen, immediately contact the retailer or your IT team if it is a workplace account.

Watch for eavesdroppers and shoulder surfers: Regardless of if you are at home, work, or school ensure that no one can view your screen when entering confidential information.

Following these guidelines will help you and your employees have a safe and happy shopping season!

Happy holidays from FloatMe!


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