Holiday Shopping Takes a Back Seat at Work

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Workers looking for a jumpstart on their holiday gift lists will have a harder time browsing for bargains at the office.

The majority of chief information officers interviewed by Robert Half Technology said their companies block access to online shopping sites — a number that has gone up from last year. 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.

The surveys were developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis. They were conducted by an independent research firm and are based on telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from companies across the United States with 100 or more employees.

CIOs were asked, “What is your company’s policy regarding employees shopping online while at work?” This year 60 percent answered yes to “block access to online shopping sites,” whereas that number was 48 percent in 2010.

Twenty-three percent said they allow access but monitor for excessive use in 2011, compared to 34 percent last year. Meanwhile, just 13 percent say they allow unrestricted access — a 1 percent decrease from last year.

“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, explaining that it would behoove them to exercise caution. “Spending excessive time on non-business activities while at work raises a red flag for employers.”

Robert Half Technology offers 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 always put work first.
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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