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Cyber Monday was named way back in 2005 before high speed Internet connections were not the household norm. After trekking to the mall on Black Friday employees were eager to access a swift browser at their desks when they returned to work on the following Monday. Retailers responded with deals for the day. In just the same way that Black Friday sales have started earlier and earlier, cyber deals have been promoted for weeks. And your employees are no longer dependent on workplace connectivity to get through their shopping list; they have upgraded at home and probably carry a mobile device that helps them master the task. So are they still taking time away from work to shop? Probably.

The Trend of Shopping at Work is Up

CareerBuilder’s annual Cyber Monday Survey tells us that shopping at work is growing, not shrinking. This year 54% of employees are expected to whittle down their list at work; up from 49% in 2013. And we are not talking about a couple of minutes during break time. While it looks like 25% of your staff will spend up to an hour on the activity, 20% will be distracted for 1 – 3 hours while 10% can be counted on to focus on great buys for three or more hours.

Shouldn’t We Just Ban all Personal Online Activity at Work?

Not so fast. It reminds me of policies that say, “Employees are not permitted to accept, or make, any personal phone calls during business hours.” Really? “Hi hon, my meeting isn’t starting until 4:30 so don’t expect me home before 6.” Some employers respond by blocking certain sites. Others simply announce that all online activity is monitored, whether they do or not. Another option is to make certain that work expectations and deadlines are clear and follow up.

No policy at all is not the best policy. With reports that American consumers will complete 35% of their holiday shopping online some of that is bound to bleed into work time. Maybe it’s just checking email for delivery confirmation or tracking shipping. Tell employees what the parameters are and follow up. And yes employers do fire people for spending time at work on personal activities, including online shopping. Your policy should not be limited to using company computers; employees can sit at their desk and use their phone to shop.

While you are thinking about the policy there is one more wrinkle to add to the topic; Can they have the stuff shipped to the office?

About Rebecca Mazin

Rebecca Mazin creates usable solutions for employers to meet increasingly complicated human resources challenges. Her Recruit Right consulting, training, and writing produces consistently measurable results in organizations from small start-ups to industry giants. Rebecca is the author of The Employee Benefits Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Business Owners and co-authored The HR Answer Book: An Indispensable Guide for Managers and Human Resources Professionals. Follow Rebecca on Twitter @thehranswer.