Put this coming Monday alongside March Madness and the World Series as days when companies can expect distracted workers and a noticeable drop in productivity.
It is called Cyber Monday and has developed into one of the busiest days of the year for online purchases, retail experts said.
As a result, employers could lose a total of $488 million in productivity as employees purchase the latest books, toys, DVDs, video games, and other items while at work rather than use their computers do their jobs, according to the job placement consulting firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., of Chicago.
The estimate is based on 68.6 million U.S. employees, or about half of the workforce, will spend an average of 12 minutes using their Internet connections at work to surf the Web to buy holiday gifts.
Their online purchases will contribute to an estimated $700 million in online retail sales expected to occur on Monday, providing a 21 percent increase over $608 million in sales last year on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Dozens of online retailers have decided to actively promote the idea of Cyber Monday, a name coined in 2005 by Shop.org after online retailers reported a surge of Internet shopping that day. This time, many offeronline specials and one-day-only discounts.
According to BizRate Research, 72 percent of retailers responding to a survey said they will use special e-mail campaigns, specific deals, or one-day sales on Monday, while many will offer free shipping on all purchases.
"As more people rely on the Internet for holiday shopping, retailers have stepped up their game to compete," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, a Web site run by the online retailing industry.
The Internet will influence 30 percent of holiday sales this year, up from 29 percent last year, and men are more likely to shop from work than women, according to Shop.org. Adults 18-24 are more likely to shop online from work than any other age group, at 73 percent.
While employers shouldn't be surprised to see distracted employees on Monday, Challenger, Gray said it is hard to measure productivity using a traditional "widgets per hour" formula.
The consulting firm said that while some productivity will be lost, employers should not fret because, realistically, workers are not paid by the minute and are not expected to be productive every minute of their work day.
Overall, " unless online shopping causes deadlines to be missed or Internet performance to suffer, companies should not attempt to crack down on the practice. Doing so could negatively affect moral and loyalty, which ultimately will have a greater impact on the bottom line than a few minutes of cyber shopping," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray.
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