Why employees shopping online at work may not be such a bad thing

If you always suspected your workers are spending time on the internet when you aren’t looking, now you have your proof.

Workers are increasingly shopping online during business hours – instead of during their leisure time – according to new data from shopping website Kogan.com, despite the fact that online shopping offers 24-hour access to many goods and services.

The data shows that peak shopping activity occurs between 11am and 2pm – well outside the usual lunch break.

“People are buying everything online these days,” says website founder Ruslan Kogan. “Whereas before people would have used their lunch hours to head out to their local shopping centre, now they’re shopping at their desks.”

Most leaders, on hearing that their staff are using work hours to shop, would worry about the loss of productivity.

However, Kogan believes that the benefits of a relaxed and happy workforce far outweigh the costs of online shopping. “You used to hear, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go out shopping, I have to battle the traffic.’ In today’s day and age it’s just a few taps in your web browser,” he says.

Productivity coach at Primary Asset Consulting, Cyril Peupion, says that Kogan’s research confirms a recent trend in employees’ work/life balance.

“Home and work are much more blurred [these days],” he says. “Twenty years ago people would go to work; there’s a life at work and a life at home. This isn’t the case anymore.”

It isn’t just a case of personal time leaking into work hours, says Peupion. “Work has taken over some personal time. It’s not only on one side. So businesses can whinge about it, but they created it.”

Online shopping is currently the bane of the traditional retail sector, leaving shops scrambling to make up lost business. Despite this, Kogan says that online will never completely replace bricks and mortar stores.

“They just need to innovate,” he says. “They used to scream at customers, ‘Shop here! We have the biggest range!’ but they don’t anymore. But they do have a few advantages. They’ve got a person in store, they have [expert staff] who can sell a product to them. Look at a Nespresso [coffee] store, their biggest advantage is the smell. That’s something you can never replicate online.”

Staff at Kogan.com are actually encouraged to shop online; it’s become a part of their work place culture. “There are special [mail] boxes for online purchases,” says Kogan. “We encourage staff to shop online so they can see what our competitors are doing and what their prices are. We like it when they give us some information on cool trends they’ve noticed.”

Kogan says that workers who are allowed to shop online freely will contribute more to an organisation. “These people become more productive,” he says. “[I’d] rather people spend 10 minutes online shopping, buy something and be happy, than leave and drive all the way to the shops on their lunch break.”

However, there are risks associated with online shopping. Peupion says: “Lack of focus is the biggest threat to productivity. Shopping online isn’t bad, but if you don’t manage it well it could have a huge impact on your performance.

“It’s the same as jumping on the email all the time. Email isn’t bad in itself but it can cause an impact on performance. Be aware about those things that take that focus away.”

This article first appeared on LeadingCompany.



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