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The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is a major retail sale event that will take place in the UK this year on 29 November. Along with Cyber Monday on 2 December, these days promise significant price reductions for consumers and may cause disruptions at work as staff try to find ways to secure the best deals during working time.

Figures from America reveal the impact shopping discounts on these days have in the workplace. Estimates suggest Black Friday will cost US businesses $10 billion in lost productivity whilst 78 per cent of American Amazon Prime customers have admitted plans to shop deals at work.

Despite originating in America, these days continue to attract increased attention in the UK in recent years, creating greater issues for employers in terms of misconduct and lost productivity as more staff look to find ways to make purchases online.

Remind staff of the rules

Sending a memo to all employees beforehand is an easy way of reminding them about the rules on using mobile phones at work. Most organisations will have a mobile phone use policy so the memo can outline the rules contained in this, such as keeping phones out of sight during working hours.

Although staff are more likely to use their mobile phones to shop the sales, they may be tempted to use their work internet access or work emails to view Black Friday offers. To avoid this, organisations should also consider outlining their stance on using work equipment for personal matters. Again, if a policy is in place, this can be highlighted.

Monitor behaviour

Line managers should be instructed to keep an eye on staff during this period to ensure they are complying with any workplace policies. A brief word may be enough to discourage anyone caught trying to make the most of the sales during working time and managers should be fair and reasonable with their application.

Organisations who wish to use more intrusive monitoring procedures, such as CCTV recording or internet browser analysis, should inform staff this will take place in advance and ensure they do not breach data protection law.

Take action

Organisations who subsequently discover employees have broken the rules by accessing sale sites during working time may take action for this under their disciplinary policy. If an informal conversation is deemed insufficient, then a formal warning can be provided. This is more likely to be utilised if the employee has a history of similar misconduct.

Consider flexibility

Having said this, some organisations may consider taking a more flexible approach to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, especially considering many retailers offer time limited or flash deals; where goods are reduced for a certain period of time.

Therefore, to accommodate staff, organisations may agree to allow workers to take all, or part of, their breaks at a different time than normal to make the most of these time restricted offers. This agreement will allow workers to grab a bargain whilst ensuring no working time is lost.

Further information