« Work Life Balance Is Important, So Is Staying Current | Main | Holiday Gift Giving in the Office: Dos and Don'ts »

How risky is it to shop online at work?

Admit it, most of us will at least browse at the Cyber Monday deals online at work today. The lure of a bargain is just too hard to resist. But is it wrong — ethically and legally to shop online at work? And, if you’re going to do it, how do you ensure you don’t get caught?

We all know the lines have blurred between work and our personal lives in a way that has led many of us to feel comfortable doing personal tasks from the office. When you regularly work more than 40 hours a week, a quick purchase from Amazon Prime in between work assignments seems like no big deal. Right?

On Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, most of us figure: Why miss out on bargains that could be sold out by the time we get home? 

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Americans plan to spend more time shopping Cyber Monday deals while at work this year than last, according to Robert Half Technology. Last year, 41 percent of employees said they spent an hour or more online shopping while at work on Cyber Monday. This year, 23% said they plan to do even more online shopping at work  this year, the Robert Half survey found.

So, should bosses take an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude towards online shopping from the workplace? 

If you are a boss who monitors how much employees shop on the clock or bans it altogether, you can come off as a BIG morale killer. (Good news, fewer companies are banning access to online shopping sites this holiday season.)  

However, if you’re a boss who turns a blind eye to online shopping at work, you need to do it for everyone, not just a chosen few.

Overall, many of us think our boss is totally cool with us snapping up deals while at work: 41 percent of employees surveyed by Robert Half said their bosses were okay with employees shopping online during work on Cyber Monday.

As the boss, you probably want to acknowledge online shopping on Cyber Monday (and during the holiday season) is happening and ask employees to be mindful of the time they spend shopping during work hours. You might also want to urge them to be to be careful when visiting sites online sites from a work computer.

Now, if you are the employee and you’re going to shop online at work, I recommend you have an idea of what you want, you go to one website, buy it and logout. 

Also, I suggest you refrain from bragging about your great deal because that just makes it easier for your shopping at work to get back to the boss. 

There are a few other tricks so you might want to check out this article on how to shop discreetly at work. 

This year, employees seem less concerned with whether we will get caught shopping at work because we don’t have to do it from our work computers. We can sit in our offices or cubicles (or head to the restroom) and shop on our smartphones or mobile devices. Wireless carriers now offer such great data plans that most of us barely need the company network to goof off anymore. The prevailing attitude seems to be: Why not get great deals from the comfort of the office, we spent most of our time at work anyway?

Nearly half of workers (46 percent) said they grab most of their shopping deals while on their breaks or at lunch, while others make purchases whenever they have a free moment during the day, keeping browser tabs readily open (29 percent).

But be careful....It's not worth getting fired over a sale on TVs!

Even if you believe your boss is okay with your Cyber Monday shopping at work, be discreet. According to CareerBuilder, about 7% of hiring managers said they have fired an employee for holiday shopping at work.

If you plan to shop from your office or cubicle this year, here are some tips:

• Only browse the Internet and do online shopping during lunch or other breaks.

• Don’t put projects or deadline work on hold for online shopping.

• Never shop online at work while you’re on the phone or sending important e-mail messages. You’ll be distracted and could miss something important.

• Be careful about the websites you visit and items you’re searching for. For instance, if you’re planning to buy a friend an inappropriate gag gift, that’s fine–but don’t do it from your work computer.

• Don’t distract those who sit around you with excitement over great deals.

Most important, don’t go overboard and get fired for shopping too much at work.

John Reed, of Robert Half Technology says “Many businesses acknowledge the need for flexibility during the hectic holiday season and allow some online shopping at work, within reason.”

 “Employers are looking at it from a realistic perspective,”Reed says. “The reality is that allowing employees to tackle personal to-do lists at work can help maintain productivity because workers are spared the traffic delays and long lines that accompany holiday crowds.”

So, how much shopping do you plan to do from the workplace this holiday season?