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Cyber Monday, Productivity Killer?

Posted by: Jena McGregor on November 20, 2007

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 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.

Reader Comments


November 20, 2007 11:29 AM

Maybe, the turnaround in the financial industry will come with management changes. H&R Block announced today that Richard C Breeden will be stepping in as Chairman of the company, elected to replace Mark A Ernst, who has resigned as Chairman/CEO. The NewsVisual article analyzes Breeden’s past experience, and suggests that he has the experience necessary to be a good steward of the company.

Jena McGregor

November 20, 2007 2:32 PM

Bill, I posted your comment but don't know what it has to do with my post, and it's nice to keep posts on topic. Do you represent NewsVisual?

Bruce Temkin

November 21, 2007 8:55 AM

Jena, great observation. Many of these productivity loss estimates assume that people have a fixed amount of time that they work and that they are 100% productive during every minute of the day -- leaving no spare time to do things like going online to buy a book. I dread the study that shows how businesses lose more than $10 billion per year when employees go to the bathroom. We'll end up having a run of companies closing their office bathrooms. How productive will that be?!?

Ellen Davis

November 21, 2007 9:20 AM

I just wanted to clarify--the term Cyber Monday was not coined to represent the busiest shopping day of the year. It represents the Monday after Thanksgiving when, historically, many people return from their Thanksgiving weekends and shop online (either at home or at work). For FAQs about Cyber Monday, visit

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