« Recruiters struggle with work/life balance | Main | Holiday stress heating up this week »

Shopping on company time

     Admit it, you've shopped on company time. I have. But then again, I've worked on my own time. These days with the line between work and home becoming more blurred, it's hard to draw a distinction between the two. And so, with the holiday season in full gear and Hanukkah and Christmas creeping up on me, I'm shopping online, switching between screens as emails come announcing discounts at my favorite retailers.

    I'm in good company. Visitors to e-commerce sites spent $846 million on Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 15 percent over the same day a year ago, according to ComScore. Cyber Monday is the first working day after the year's busiest shopping weekend. This year it fell on December 1. By some estimates, the Monday online shopping spree cost employers more than $488 million in lost time. (Where are the polls showing how much of our personal time we give our employers?)

   As Websitesource.com notes, "Why waste precious gas rushing to the mall on your lunch break when you can fulfill your family’s Christmas wishes with the click of a mouse from the comfort of your office?" It also says men are more likely than women to shop from work. Who knew?

    Ease is a big factor, according to CIOnews. Company pipes are bigger, so the Internet connectivity is better, and people are time-challenged.  Some employees to do their online shopping  first thing in the morning, or lunchtime, while others tend to take their browsing break after finishing a chunk of work.

   It it ethical to shop on company time?  "The line in the sand ethically is also all over the place. Some people see their breaks are employer-sanctioned personal time. Others feel, 'Hey this place works me awfully hard, I'm going to take care of myself first.'"

    What would your employer think?  Studies show that employers’ attitudes about online shopping are evolving, generally in favor of giving more leeway to employees, according to CIOnews. “Where many companies once blocked access to high-volume shopping sites, they now use threshold software that simply limits the amount of time an employee can spend on such sites,” noted Susan Larson, VP of global threat analysis and research for SurfControl, which makes filtering software for workplaces.

      Tech departments say those of us who do this are putting our company at risk. Security expert Troy Saxton-Getty of St. Bernard Software Inc., a San Diego-based provider of security products that monitor online traffic, says in a troubled economy, shoppers are more likely to seek out bargain sites and ultimately put themselves, and their companies, at risk. (note to self, stick to reputable websites)

     Given the round-the-clock demands made on many American workers, a little holiday shopping on company time is no big deal, right? Weigh in on the topic by participating in my poll.