What CIOs Think About Online Holiday Shopping At Work - InformationWeek

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11/25/2015
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What CIOs Think About Online Holiday Shopping At Work

In the next few weeks workers will be tempted to peruse the Internet for killer discounts on four of the busiest online single-day shopping events of the holidays. A recent survey reveals the likelihood of whether your boss will be a Grinch or offer good cheer if you're caught.

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Starting this week, workers will feel the increasing pull to peruse the Internet for killer discounts on holiday gifts. After all, retailers are already touting deals to be found on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday.

But if you're at work when the shopping bug hits, what are the odds your boss will be cool with this extracurricular activity?

Only a quarter of chief information officers said their companies block access to online shopping sites, according to a Robert Half Technology survey of 2,500 CIOs. Does this mean the other 75% of employers think whipping out the credit card and charging ahead to online shopping sites are fine?

Not really.

Only 25% of CIOs surveyed said their companies allow unrestricted access to shopping sites, while nearly half, 48%, said they allow access, but monitor employees for excessive time spent on the sites.

"Many professionals appreciate the ability to get some quick online shopping done at work during the busy holiday season," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. "But employees should recognize that most companies keep tabs on their online activity. Professionals should follow safe and secure browsing practices, and keep distractions at work to a minimum."

(Image: studiocasper/iStockphoto)

(Image: studiocasper/iStockphoto)

According to a Robert Half Technology survey of more than 1,000 US adult office workers, 24% have been caught shopping online by their boss. Of this group, 15% received a reprimand for shopping instead of working, while a far higher number, 31%, had a favorable outcome of "talking shop" with their manager.

The takeaway from these stats? Holiday cheer beats the Grinch.

Ones co-workers, however, get increased scrutiny. The survey found that 28% of employees said they believed their co-workers weren't pulling their weight when they scanned shopping sites on the company dime. Interestingly, though, a similar percentage of co-workers who shop online while at work, 30%, felt guilty about their activities.

The co-workers who feel other employees aren't carrying their weight when shopping online may have a difficult time swallowing the theory, held by 19% of workers surveyed, that their productively actually goes up when they shop online, because they don't have to leave the office.

These employees will be joining a huge pool of online shoppers sitting at their desktop computers and executing orders on the following four single-day events, which last year generated a total of approximately $6.2 billion in sales, according to comScore:

  • Thanksgiving Day: $1.01 billion, up 32% over 2013
  • Black Friday: $1.51 billion, up 26%
  • Cyber Monday: $2.04 billion, up 17%
  • Green Monday: $1.62 billion, up 15%

Although employees and other consumers threw far more money at Cyber Monday sales, its growth rate pales in comparison to Thanksgiving Day and is less impressive than Black Friday.

"Thanksgiving's recent growth is likely occurring because traditionally, it was more of a hassle to go online during the holiday when you're spending time with family," said Adam Lella, senior analyst of comScore's Marketing Insights. "Now, as people are more connected online than ever before due to smartphones and tablets, and as Internet speeds are faster, it's easier to quickly do some online shopping in between or while hanging out with family."

[Read Microsoft Black Friday Deals: Xbox, PC, Surface.]

He added there is no reason to believe that Cyber Monday will lose ground to another single-day sales event in the near future. Since 2009, Cyber Monday has been ranked as the No. 1 online shopping day, having taken the title from the previous top dog Green Monday, according to comScore. Green Monday got its name from being thought of as the best sales day in December. It is typically held on the second Monday of December, which is this year is December 14.

"Cyber Monday built a strong reputation for being one of the heaviest online spending days, which in turn caused retailers to push their biggest promotions on that day, which only then made it the top ranked online spending day," said Lella.

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 12:35:20 PM
Big brother is watching
I think once companies start punishing employees for doing other things at company then people will become serious.  My friend was telling that at this office, people are using Facebook, shopping, etc.  As the article said, once they start cracking down, it could impact your performance at the end of year.  The HR person could say, you didn't get a raise because we could you multiple times doing other things and not work
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 5:12:48 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
Individuals should display a high level of professionalism at the workplace and make a distinction between, company resources and personal resources. Every situation is unique and there can be times where shipping online is beneficial to the company for instance, an employee ordering winter shoes because they do not want to slip or feel cold during the walk to the subway. And, if the company is in the retail business then, a few employees might actually have it in their job description to keep track of the marketplace.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 8:40:33 PM
Re: Big brother is watching

@Brian.Dean   I agree.  Professionalism is very important and it is great that you point out that there are times when shopping online does serve a business related purpose, but we have all seen those who do everything but work with their computers.

I am not sure those who spend all day on Facebook while at work could actually live without it.   This is a decision a company will have to make.

SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 11:44:33 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@technocrati: quite correct. I don't allow any of my subordinates to browse shopping sites. They may browse social media and adjacent news sites on work but as long as they fulfill their duties. I used to allow online shopping because I myself am an online shopping freak, but I stopped after I saw because of me management had to take a blow from the chairmen.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:41:59 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@SunitaT0 – I think Facebook is one reason why you see employees online when they have to concentrate on work. If we have a look at the time they spend on Facebook it's immense. 
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 8:46:53 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@Technocrati, true. Social media was restricted in most of the organizations I have worked for. Having access to social media could lead towards data confidentiality breaches.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 11:49:31 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@brian dean: workplace is workplace. Unless you work for an online retailer and it is your job to check out the deals offered by your competition on the internet shopping sites. If that isn't the case then its better to stay out of the grasp of this Maya.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 7:55:43 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
Although I do agree, I would imagine bosses that allow a few minutes of checking here and there and a bit more of a lenient approach are much more likely to have happy employees. If they feel they're being watched every minute they're more likely to act out.

Of course there will always be those that take advantage of the situation though.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2015 | 9:55:41 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
A little bit once in a while should be OK. But the employee should remember that s(he) is there primarily to work and to earn enough money to be able to shop - Not to Shop
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:11:02 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
@Gary_EL, absolutely. We need to earn, to do shopping. As adults we should know our limits and how to balance it with work. If you over use the freedom, obviously it will be an issue. The IT will be right behind saying you have been using more bandwidth from the network.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:36:01 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
I absolutely hate it when my employees indulge in something out of work, especially if I am paying them by the hour. They can just ask me "Can I take an hour off, I need to buy something off the web." And I would give them that time without deducting their salary, because even I know what it feels like when a hot deal escapes from your fingertips, but atleast don't do it while working! Take an hour off, nobody will blame you.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 8:49:20 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@sachinee, seems it is a good practice. However do you think it is practical all the time? 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 8:52:05 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
I can understand for an hourly employee. Salaried employees need to be treated differently. There is a natural give and take for a salaried employee where the commitment is to get the job requirements completed, but not necessarily between 8 and 5. If you trust your staff and they aren't letting quality or service sink, I believe it's reasonable to allow some online shopping at work. We strive for balance in our workplace culture, which means some of "home" comes into work sometimes, and some of "work" goes home. All in all, I think "work" is getting the better end of the deal. I'll gladly trade 15-20 minutes of online shopping during the day for 15-20 (and likely a lot more) of evening catch-up time if that is what's required for my teams to meet their commitments and deliverables.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:41:36 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@Gary_El: I agree with you. If you are being paid by the hour, then don't waste company hours, if you want to buy something take some time off, your payment won't be cut. And if you are a permanent employee I don't care what you do as long as you fulfill that day's work. I urge my employees to go home to their families if they finish the entire work and not stay extra hours.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:48:29 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
Well, I've been a home-based freelancer for a long time now, so I don't really know how it goes in a modern work environment. Maybe because today's full-time employee really is a FULL time employee, and (s)he is alway working, some time off has to be allowed so the ordinary tasks of non-work life can be taken care of.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:45:17 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
@Gary_El: I agree with you, it is bad enough that engineers have to oppose the tyrannical schemes of the Managing body (and I'm saying this out on a limb here, almost 80% of all Managements are poor in managing employees) so if the engineers got some flexible boss they would feel more welcome. 
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:44:51 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@whoopty: Of course they do. You can't control everything. But it is okay as long as I don't catch you red handed and as long as you do your job.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:44:52 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@ Whoopty – I agree with you on this. Employees need some motivation and time they could spend online. Restricting this access itself could be a demotivating factor. 
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 11:40:38 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
shakeeb you make an excellent point when employees feel watched they don't feel trusted and it leads to overall job dissatisfaction. Much more costly than some time spent on the web holiday shopping.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:37:46 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
I don't think employee monitoring is required as they are mature enough to understand their responsibilities and work accordingly. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2015 | 11:47:21 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@pedro: it does hamper your ability to make correct decisions. For example I remember an employee of mine who got an amazing deal on Amazon but he was called to a meeting before he could "add to cart" the item, and was so impatient at meeting because he feared by the time he got there it would have been stocked out, and when he saw that indeed that was the case he just flipped out.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:42:49 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@SunitaT0: I agree. It hampers their decision making skills because their mind is where the website is giving the hot deal.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:05:19 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
This is an interesting article during this time period. I think it's better to provide access to these sites for the staff with a control mechanism. This will help the busy people to do online shopping.  
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:46:12 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@shamika – you could probably allow access to these sites during a specific time frame. I.e. The employees will have access to these pages during their break hours. 
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2015 | 2:07:23 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
@ PedroGonzales I agree with you. But it is always better to have work life balance. I think I am fortunate to work for a company which values the employee work life balance with work.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 12:38:56 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@shamika: Work life balance doesn't mean you would waste company hours to do shopping. Employees can just ask for some off time to buy stuff.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2015 | 8:39:37 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
@sachinee I agree with you. However I think, spending a couple of minutes to browse through will not make a big harm to the company hours.  Further what if there is no way for them to take a time off due to lack of resources especially during a festival season?
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 8:54:33 AM
Re: Big brother is watching
Agreed, shamika. Balance has to go both ways.

Pedro, that sounds like an extreme example. I'm guessing that individual has other performance issues if he couldn't focus on the task at hand thinking an online deal might expire during a meeting. If you are that worried about it, you probably shouldn't be doing anything remotely personal while at work.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:36:41 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
I think employees should have freedom to access general internet sites at work, but it's their duty to ensure that the work is not compromised by accessing internet.

 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
12/2/2015 | 9:41:30 PM
Re: Big brother is watching
I agree. Has anybody here lead a team and saw their subordinates surfing the web during work hours?.  I wouldn't mind as long as they are able to do their work on time on schedule. 
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 8:28:30 PM
Tis the season for employee morale

Unless it is abused I never had an issue with an employee doing some online shopping while at work. There are times when an employee can shop and work such as on a conference call where the shopping saves the employee time and they can still effectively get their job done. During the holidays many employees are stretched and office holiday parties and functions take employees away from their desks regularly, add to this the pressure of the holidays to shop and plan family gatherings and it makes for a stressful season. I would rather have employees shop a little during the holidays than leave work early or take days out of the office to meet their holiday commitments.  I have an HR idea why not introduce a shopping hour for employees during the holiday season.  An easy way to show employee appreciation with little to no cost!

mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 10:56:56 PM
Re: Tis the season for employee morale
@Impactnow,

Thank you so much for sharing.

I think the work environment has a big impact. In some areas doing some personal web browsing/shopping is simply seen when someone needs a 5 min distraction after spending 2+ hours in a given task (I know I do). In other others you can barely get away at glazing at your phone screen.

i agree with your statement, by allowing employees a little freedom (as long as it's not abussed) leads to more productivity, since folks are able to get one or two errands done online that was occupying there thoughts, and are then better abe focus (again, I know I do)
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2015 | 11:16:58 PM
Re: Tis the season for employee morale
Employees spending some time shopping could atually make them more productive becasue they won't be worried about gettng their holiday obligations met.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2015 | 11:41:32 PM
Re: Tis the season for employee morale
@impactnow,

Correct, and thus those employees can better focus on the task at hand
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