On the Clock

Primed for Prime Day

The Black Friday of July tempts many a worker to shop while on the clock.

So many decisions: Should you ask for a raise, given the stellar second quarter results? Will that team-building exercise really help my direct reports bond? And then, there’s the most important one: should I purchase the Samsonite Omni expandable hard-sided luggage set in silver or black?

Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’re likely an Amazon shopper, if not a card-carrying Prime member. And if you’re the latter—there are 100 million—today and tomorrow are the equivalent of Christmas in July: Prime Day.

If you have deadlines for Tuesday, then shopping Monday may be difficult for a manager to overlook.

And the deals of a year on America’s favorite online retailer bring up the evolving 21st century dilemma of shopping at work—a trend that 53% of professionals saying they partake in. Yet, a third of employers say they don’t want employees using work computers for personal purposes during work hours, according to CareerBuilder. And 24% of managers have fired an employee for their online shopping or other non-work-related internet activity. 

While no virtual reality headset is worth a firing, here are some tips to keep in mind while cashing in on Prime-Day deals at work.

Set specific time limits.

In the past, handling personal needs during the workday was, in some ways, easy: break times and lunch hours were clearly defined (with some offices totally shutting down from 12 pm to 1 pm), giving you time to get those personal errands done.

Now, though, the onus is on you to set aside a limited amount of time for shopping to ensure you don’t fall down an online honey hole, wasting hours, says Jill MacFadyen, a career coach in Chicago. She suggests setting a timer on your computer for five or 10 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Only shop within the allotted time you’ve set. If you’re an otherwise talented employee, most employers will overlook a few minutes here or there.

Enable online blockers.

If you find yourself unable to hold yourself to the timer’s limits or keep going back to your Amazon cart throughout the day, use the same technology that allows you to surf the sites to keep you in check. Elana Konstant, a New York City career coach, suggests using online blockers, such as Cold Turkey, to prevent you from going to certain websites during parts of your day. Start with committing to 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time, and then build in a five-minute break. If during those five minutes you want to shop, then do so. As you build your focus, increase the work times to 90 minutes, with 15-minute breaks.

Follow the culture.

Whether you shop or accomplish other personal needs during those built-in breaks “depends on the work culture you’re in,” Konstant says. “It isn’t just an individual choice.”

You can sometimes circumvent this issue by understanding your office needs. If you have deadlines for Tuesday, then shopping Monday may be difficult for a manager to overlook. But maybe there’s a natural downtime on Friday as everyone resets, which would make it more acceptable to knock out some shopping. That said, if your manager has a zero-shopping policy, then it’s best to stick to it.

Remember, they’re watching.

Regardless of if you’re in an open office with no cubicle walls or a glass office with automatic shades, your company can see whatever you’re doing, MacFadyen says. So if you’re buying that robotic vacuum cleaner that’s 50% off, you may want to save it for your personal phone or computer, and skip buying it while on the clock. 

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