How Scroogey Should Employers Be About Online Shopping at Work?

Nearly half of employees plan to shop online @ work this holiday season.

According to the latest survey from the fine folks at CareerBuilder:

  • Some 49 percent of employees plan to shop online @ work this holiday season;
  • Most plan to do their shopping sometime after December 7; and,
  • More women (43 percent) than men (36 percent) admit they’ve done holiday shopping @ work.

What other surveys say

But that’s not all. According to other surveys:

  • Nearly half (49 percent) of employees click on shopping links in emails;
  • Some 34 percent click on shopping links on social media sites;
  • Another 29 percent click on a “daily deal” (e.g., Groupon, Living Social, etc.);
  • Slightly more than 1 in 5 (22 percent) give their employer’s address to online shopping outlets; and,
  • A solid 20 percent have no idea if their company policy bans any or all of the above.

What are employers doing about all that shopping?

  • More than half (53 percent) of employers block employees from accessing certain web sites;
  • A quarter of them (25 percent) have fired an employee for non-work-related Internet usage; and,
  • Just 7 percent of managers have fired an employee for holiday shopping @ work.

What’s the big deal?

In addition to lost productivity, failure to address the above activity can result in viruses, spam, phishing and other horrible things that can cripple a company’s IT infrastructure.

What should employers do?

Almost all companies have implemented computer usage policies to deal with these issues. But many of them are overbroad and inconsistently enforced, which can result in morale issues, discrimination lawsuits and even unfair labor practice charges from the National Labor Relations Board.

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So, what should you do?

  • Don’t overreact. If you haven’t already done so, implement a reasonable policy and consistently enforce it. (Here’s my official Social Media Starter Kit, which includes a plethora of model policies and other helpful resources.)
  • Train employees on appropriate computer usage before the holidays and follow up with reminders.
  • Implement basic security measures such as spam filters, patches, firewalls and intrusion detection systems and update them regularly.
  • Monitor networks for suspicious activity, respond quickly to threats and remind employees to notify management of potential problems.
  • Conduct periodic risk assessments and update the usage policy and security measures accordingly.

ISACA has loads of helpful tips on this topic. For more, click here.

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at