It’s that time of year again. As happens during March Madness and fantasy baseball season, my inbox is filling up with studies bearing headlines intended to strike fear in the hearts of managers everywhere: The Internet is killing productivity! Monitor your employees! Batten down the Web hatches!
This time, it’s “Cyber Monday” that’s the culprit. According to outplacement consultancy Challenge Gray & Christmas—the hands-down king of the all-caps press release headline—“ONLINE SHOPPERS COULD SPEND $700 MILLION; BUT EMPLOYERS COULD LOSE $488 MILLION.” That productivity-loss estimate, the firm says, is based on the number of “working” online shoppers, their average salary, and the average number of minutes spent surfing the Web.
While Challenger caveats its fear-mongering release with a note that employers shouldn’t worry too much about those losses, such announcements bother me to no end. First of all, I question such estimates. Sure, some poor cubicle dweller takes 10 minutes out of their day to order a sweater for their mother-in-law online from the Gap. That hardly adds up to the two hours they spent catching up on email the night before after putting the kids to bed.
Secondly, the whole notion of Cyber Monday has been debunked. The term, savvy marketing if there ever was any, was invented by e-tailing association Shop.org. According to the New York Times, the biggest online shopping day of the year in 2005 wasn’t the Monday after Thanksgiving, but Monday Dec. 12, two weeks later.
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