The Christmas period can be a chaotic time, both in and outside of work. Businesses frantically try and finish their to-do lists for the year, whilst planning holiday events and juggling the inevitable onslaught of annual leave requests.
Simultaneously, staff set their sights on their festive to-do lists, as resolve to keep working until the 24th slumps dramatically. Festive food shopping, ordering a blow-up bed for a relative who RSVP’d last-minute and, of course, the dreaded present sourcing ordeal.
Inevitably, some of this shopping time leeches out of personal hours and into work time. In fact, according to research from OpenX, almost seven in ten employees admit to online shopping whilst at work.
But with firms across the globe rushing to finalise all business by the new year, taking significant time out of the day for personal errands could be potentially damaging. So how should these situations be managed?
Some leaders obviously take a very hard line on such activities. According to CareerBuilder data, a total of one in four employers say they’ve fired someone for using company internet for non-work-related activity.
If this seems rather drastic, Kate Palmer of HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, states that such a response should really only be held for consistent repeat offenders. "If an employee is spending their working hours online shopping instead of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of their role, this is an issue,” she previously said, when discussing the same issue around the Black Friday and Cyber Monday periods.
“A one-off incident can be dealt with by having a quiet word and reminding your employee of your policies, to make sure they understand the behaviours expected. But repeated offences and a proved pattern of misusing work time can result in disciplinary action, in line with normal policies and procedures,” Palmer added.
So how does this translate into solid policy? “Shopping of any kind should only be done during designated breaks or outside working hours. For the avoidance of any doubt, it’s always best to outline your expectations in your workplace policies, especially those regarding internet usage and personal devices.
“It might be preferable not to introduce a total ban on retail websites, instead reminding staff about expected standards of behaviour and signposting them to your policies.
“That way, they won’t feel micro-managed and will still be able to take advantage of the sales during their break-times. This is particularly important as many people will be keen to snap up bargains and savings in this economic climate,” Palmer concluded.