WORK-LIFE BALANCE / NOV. 27, 2013
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Will You be Christmas Shopping at Work this Black Friday?

Online Christmas shopping – what’s not to like about it? Why brave the cold, fighting through the crowds of people, when you can take as long as you like, and browse virtually from the warmth and comfort of your home?

Well, that’s the theory anyway. Because, according to new research, the home won’t actually be the place where increasing numbers will do their shopping from. Instead, many will be doing it on company time, when they’re supposed to be working – and the problem will be at its worst this Friday – so-called Black Friday, the annual event where popular retailers, like Apple and Amazon dramatically reduce their prices.

According to employment group ELAS, Black Friday is expected to cost British businesses tens of £millions in lost productivity. A reported £200 million was spent by UK consumers during last year’s Black Friday and ELAS consultant, Enrique Garcia, says: “The sheer volume of sales taking place during Black Friday indicates that a lot of time is being spent making online purchases.”

He added: “We understand that Christmas shopping can be both hectic and stressful and that Black Friday discounts and offers are tempting, but browsing and buying during contracted working hours isn’t the answer.”

But what is the answer? ELAS recommends putting firewall and filters onto staffs’ desktops, to prevent them from browsing on company time. To ensure morale is kept, it also suggests lifting these barriers at set break times – such as during lunch hours. But according to demographers, Generation Y employees (those born after 1981, which in some countries, are already a third of the workforce), simply don’t understand restrictions to going online while at work.

Perhaps bosses need to chill out and accept the inevitable. Globally, marketing experts predict that around £5 billion worth of Christmas presents will be bought this coming Black Friday, (and a large amount will be done while people are at work), and that's not the end of it. Black Friday will be immediately followed by Cyber-Monday - the day when online spending reaches its peak for orders needing to be delivered in time for Christmas.

So, rather than feeling like you're being left out, perhaps you should all encourage your managers to let you join in on the fun. No-one likes working for a company where bosses are seen to lack festive cheer. Letting staff have some time to buy gifts for their family is arguably the least they can do – no doubt they’ve been responsible for making you work later than you needed to earlier on in the year.

Christmas is a time for giving, so make sure you let your bosses give you a bit of time to buy your festive treats!

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