Posted December 07, 2011 by

More companies restrict online shopping at work

If you are trying to get some holiday shopping done while on the job, it may be more challenging this year than last.

Workers looking for a jump-start on their holiday gift lists will have a harder time browsing for bargains at the office. The majority (60 percent) of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed by Robert Half Technology said their companies block access to online shopping sites – up from 48 percent last year. Another 23 percent said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use. The CIOs whose firms allow online shopping said they expect employees to spend four hours per week, on average, surfing for deals this holiday season.

CIOs were asked, “What is your company’s policy regarding employees shopping online while at work?” Their responses:

2010 2011
Block access to online shopping sites 48% 60%
Allow access but monitor for excessive use 34% 23%
Allow unrestricted access 14% 13%
Other/don’t know  4% 4%
Total 100% 100%

“With an increasing number of firms blocking access to shopping sites, many employees may turn to mobile devices to shop at the office,” said John Reed, executive director of Robert Half Technology.” Reed advises exercising caution, however.  “Spending excessive time on non-business activities while at work raises a red flag for employers.”

Here are four tips to help professionals avoid getting on their company’s “naughty list” this holiday season:

  1. Play by the rules. If your employer allows shopping at work, know your company’s policy, including sites or hours to avoid, before searching for deals online.
  2. Buy rather than browse. A liberal computer use policy is no excuse to spend the day filling your shopping cart. If your company allows occasional online buying, limit your activity to quick transactions.
  3. Don’t get stuck on your Smartphone. Mobile devices can make it easy to get around a strict online shopping policy, but I always put work first, even on Cyber Monday.
  4. Exercise caution. Any offer that looks too good to be true probably is. Avoid links or sites that could infect your company’s network with phishing attacks or viruses.
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