Good Question: Is Shopping Online At Work OK?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

It’s the week before Thanksgiving. The holiday shopping season is about to begin. And while we know our audience would ever spend valuable time on-the-clock at work shopping on the Internet, we did wonder if it would be OK.

The truth is, according to Comscore, Americans spent $29.1 billion dollars online during last holiday season.

And the top 10 online shopping days were all weekdays, traditional work days. One researcher puts the peak shopping time in the U.S. as between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.

“I think more companies will come up with policies to restrict it,” said Tim Stormoen, manager of Robert Half’s Technology group in Minneapolis.

His parent company surveyed top employers and found that 48 percent of them are completely blocking shopping websites.

“I think there was an excessive amount of activity in shopping in the workplaces. They finally said, ‘Enough is enough. Productivity is suffering. You can do your shopping at home,'” he said.

Another third of companies told Robert Half they specifically monitor employees for online shopping.

But come on — at work we all take breaks. Maybe it’s a coffee break, smoke break or a chat at the water cooler.

“I think it’s become such an epidemic,” said Stormoen of online shopping on the clock.

The survey found that employees waste three hours of company time a week shopping online. That’s about 35 minutes a day. Not just using company time, but using company resources, which could be putting computer systems at risk for infection by malware and viruses.

“Most of that activity is really not buying, it’s browsing more than anything else. I think that’s what companies are worried about. Browsing, not buying. Browsing takes a lot of time,” he said.

Stormoen recommends that people check out their corporate policy for online usage to make sure they aren’t putting their job at risk.

“It’s like taking too long for lunch, too long for coffee. People need some common sense while they’re at work,” he said.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Paul DeBettignies

    “It’s like taking too long for lunch, too long for coffee. People need some common sense while they’re at work,” he said.

    Well… OK, now how about companies use some common sense. If their employees are only doing an 8 hour day, not having to answer after hours calls and not needing to check their email then I agree.

    But how many companies leave their employees alone the other 16 hours in a day?

    I get resources used, not being productive, etc. Surely that needs to be addressed.

    If they are hiring people who cannot be responsible then we need to have a totally different conversation.

  • Cynthia

    In my case, I’m not an hourly employee. If something happens that requires my attention after hours, then I will be logged in to my laptop and working at home until I’m done – all night if necessary. Consequently, I don’t see anything wrong with making online purchases while in the office if it is otherwise not busy – often, it’s in the morning that I think of things like reloading my bus card or paying some bill. It is also helpful when pricing a vacation to have ready access to my office’s time off calendar. I see it as one of the perks of being a salaried employee.

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