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Everyone has been secretly doing this while on the job — and spending mega money



If you find yourself shopping more than Slacking, you’re not alone.

Remote employees, researchers say, are responsible for billions of dollars in online sales, whether it’s adding a new outfit to your cart or browsing household essentials — all from the comfort of your home, with no one breathing down your neck.

“It’s a little bit of fun during the day,” Megan Morreale, who works in content marketing in New Jersey, told the Wall Street Journal. “All the guilt is completely gone when you work from home.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has soared by billions of dollars annually, new data shows. Getty Images

Between conference calls or tasks, Morreale says she impulsively scrolls through social media and shops online — but not without the occasional buyer’s regret.

“I wouldn’t have bought this stupid thing if it weren’t for All Hands,” she lamented, referring to a candle, marketed by an influencer, that she bought during a meeting.

Online shopping since the pandemic has soared to $375 billion annually, according to new research from the Mastercard Economics Institute, Northwestern University and Stanford University, and employees like Morreale are responsible for a large portion.

But that doesn’t mean they’re any less productive at their jobs.

“People just can’t work continuously without taking a break,” study co-author Nick Bloom, an economist at Stanford, told the Journal.

Unlike the office — where coffee breaks, water cooler chitchats and office birthday celebrations to break up the monotony of the cubicle — working from home doesn’t allow for the same kind of communal intermissions.

Shopping or social media breaks, then, serve a similar purpose.

Browsing the internet — and ordering items online — has replaced water cooler chats and coffee breaks in the office. Getty Images

Ace Bhattacharjya, chief executive of a company that works with medical records, told the Journal that he finds more interesting items online versus in brick-and-mortar stores, where everything blends into homogeneity.

Not to mention, there’s no long line to try on clothes or check out, and customized emails land in your inbox to remind you that the shirt you loved is now back in your size — and half off.

The Journal reported that online spending tends to max out midday on Fridays, per Adobe data, and a survey from Rakuten, a cash-back rewards e-commerce company, found that more than a quarter of women shop during work hours.

“I get comments all the time, like, ‘I’m running to a meeting but this heart charm is mine! Sold! I’ll pay you in 30 minutes,’” Jenny Hirschey, an online jewelry store owner from St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Journal, noting that approximately 80% of her sales occur during the workday.

Some vendors have even strategically timed marketing, promotions and product launches with the workday, anticipating remote employees browsing their site. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The abundance of workday spending has caught the attention of strategic marketers at larger vendors, according to Liza Amlani, a Toronto-based consultant and advisor. Her clients, she says, are now timing promotional communications and new product launches with work hours, like noon or 3 p.m,. when they “know that you’re on your computer.”

Then, there’s the dopamine hit of pressing “buy.”

It’s a one-two punch of instant gratification: first, when you submit the order, and again when it arrives at your front door.

While some over-eager shoppers may forget which items they ordered by the time it arrives, the ease of online shopping is still “seductive,” New Jersey therapist Michelle Drapkin told the Journal.

In her previous job with a healthcare company, she said she would never dare browse online while on the clock — let alone on an office computer — but now, working from home occasionally, she admits that she turns to online shopping when she has downtime, ticking necessary purchases off her daily agenda.

“I can do something different than work that’s still productive,” she added.

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