Mary Moran, an executive assistant at a government commission, does it. Michael Sims, a commercial real-estate broker, does it. So do U U...
WASHINGTON — Mary Moran, an executive assistant at a government commission, does it. Michael Sims, a commercial real-estate broker, does it. So do U.S. Senate employee Beckie Whitehead, Catholic University student Daniela Manville and lawyer David Godschalk.
They all go shopping online while at work.
“Everybody does it,” said Lara Swett, an administrative assistant at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
The Friday after Thanksgiving may be the holiday-shopping kickoff in malls and stores, but online, the big day is the Monday after Thanksgiving when people go back to work.
A little break
“Thanksgiving is when we get lists of what family members want,” said Tresa Undem, an analyst with Lake Research Partners, a District of Columbia-based polling firm. She’ll go back to the office today and start checking things off her list, probably in the afternoon when she needs a little break.
“We all work hard, so if we spend 10 minutes shopping I don’t think it’s a big deal,” she said.
The online retail industry has taken to calling this Cyber Monday. In a recent survey by Shop.org and BizRate Research, 77 percent of retailers reported their sales last year increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The growing phenomenon is an intensification of the year-round surge of online shopping during the workweek, changing the workplace as much as it changes shopping patterns.
At QVC.com, for example, Mondays are almost always the biggest shopping day of the week, said company spokeswoman Bonnie Clark.
For Visa, which processes 47 percent of all online purchases, weekdays bring much higher volume than weekends — the exact opposite of typical traffic patterns in stores. The workweek after Thanksgiving is Visa’s highest-volume week of the year.
“I’d love to see that chart: workplace productivity versus sales,” joked Brad Nightengale, vice president of emerging products for Visa USA.
The biggest online sales day of this year so far, as tracked by Visa, was Nov. 15 — a Tuesday. But the peaks are yet to come, with 20 percent of Visa’s annual online volume typically logged in the period from Thanksgiving to year-end, according to Nightengale.
Experts say this week will bring the biggest online shopping burst ever, since holiday clicking and shipping is predicted to jump 25 to 30 percent over last year.
Experts say consumers spend their weekends window shopping, talking to friends and getting ideas about what they need and want. Then they head back to work, where they have high-speed Internet connections and tempting moments of downtime to get errands done.
Many workers say they work such long hours, it’s the only time they can shop online.
“I’m at work more than I’m at home,” said Mary Moran, an executive assistant at the Appalachian Regional Commission, who has already done all her gift buying online, from work.
Postell Carter, a database manager for the New Israel Fund, squeezes online shopping trips into his day in bits and pieces.
“Generally every couple of hours I’ll take a little break,” he said. He might go online to buy clothes for his kids or flowers for his wife. It rarely takes more than 10 minutes, he said.
He plans to start his Christmas shopping in earnest this week. “My wife likes to go to the mall. … For me, it’s just easier to do it when I’m back at my computer,” he said.
Carter said his boss is easygoing about it, as employers increasingly are. Several major companies said they are fine with employees doing personal errands on the job as long as they don’t abuse the privilege.
“We actually think it’s productive if they do it that way instead of running out to a suburban mall and stretching the one-hour lunch into two,” said Bob Dobkin, a spokesman for electric utility Pepco, which has 2,500 employees in the Washington, D.C., area. “We do think it promotes a better employee relationship.”
Workplace consultants say employers’ attitudes about online shopping are evolving, generally in favor of giving more leeway.
Where many companies once blocked access to high-volume shopping sites, they now use threshold software that simply limits an employee’s time on such sites, said Susan Larson, a vice president of SurfControl, which makes filtering software for workplaces.
Today, she said, companies are more worried about employees bringing viruses into an office network by shopping online than they are about reduced productivity.
This approach to workplace management is good for the company and employees, said John Challenger, chief executive of executive recruiting and consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“Allowing people to do some of their personal work at work is just good policy,” he said.
“That blurring of work and personal life really has completely changed the way we think about work. It’s no longer true that when you’re at your desk from 9 to 5 you’re at work, and when you’re not at that place you’re on your personal time. That line is gone.”