Last reviewed 27 November 2020

Over the past few years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both become major sale events in the UK. Ben McCarthy, lead researcher and employment law writer at Croner-i, explores how employers can keep staff productivity during these days.

The day after the US Thanksgiving, Black Friday, is a major sale event that takes place on the following Friday. Along with Cyber Monday on the following Monday, these days promise significant price reductions for consumers. Although these days attract less attention in the UK, they continue to have the potential to negatively affect productivity as retail organisations embrace these events.

Figures from the US have shown the real impact shopping deals on these days have in the workplace. It is estimated Black Friday will cost US businesses $10 billion in lost productivity while 78% of American Amazon Prime customers announced they would shop deals at work.

Some may be forgiven for thinking that the pandemic had cancelled Black Friday this year. Shops may currently be closed in England, but online retail remains very much a present part of employee lives. Furthermore, shops in the vast majority of Scotland and Wales, remain very much open. So, what do organisations need to do to prepare for this?

Remind staff of the rules

If staff are working from home, it is going to be difficult to keep an eye on what they are up to. Some may be tempted to browse Amazon during working hours, even if they wouldn't usually do so while at work. To this end, an email should be sent to all employees reminding them that while they are still working remotely, usual rules surrounding personal browsing and mobile phone usage apply. They should also be asked to justify if there is a clear dip in productivity during Black Friday.

Although employees 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 review Black Friday offers. To avoid this, draw attention to the organisation's stance on using work equipment for personal use, whether this is a complete prohibition during working hours or reasonable use. If a policy is in place, this can be highlighted.

Organisations who will monitor employee activities during these sale events need to ensure they have informed staff this will take place, in advance of carrying out any monitoring. Organisations who subsequently discover employees have broken the rules by accessing sale sites through the company internet should take action for this under their disciplinary policy. They can decide whether informal or formal action will deter the employee from further rule breaches. It may be the case that taking the employee to one side and informing them that they are breaking the company rules will be sufficient to prevent this happening again.

Consider flexibility

Many retailers offer time limited or flash deals, where goods are reduced for a certain period of time. These deals are often communicated in advance so shoppers can plan ahead. To avoid employees accessing these flash deals during working time, organisations can be flexible and agree workers can take all, or part of, their breaks at a different time than normal. This agreement will allow the worker to grab a bargain while ensuring no working time is lost.