Ever make a quick online purchase during your lunch hour at work? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that employees spend an average of five hours during the holiday season shopping on workplace equipment. That’s more than half a day engaged in non-business activities at work, and is in addition to other personal online access including social networking sites and non-company email.
Employers are taking notice. This year, 33% of Chief Information Officers surveyed reported that their companies block online shopping websites such as eBay and Amazon. Of the remainder, most track online usage to guard against abuse.
Problems arising from unauthorized online shopping fall into two areas: putting office equipment at risk from spam and viruses, and lost productivity by the worker.
Visiting possibly hazardous sites could increase the risk of spam and threatening viruses on company computers. The equipment is also more vulnerable to unwanted incoming email from retailers, confirming purchases and following up on delivery. Employees often unknowingly engage in risky behavior by clicking on links in emails received at work, using work email addresses for shopping websites, and clicking on shopping links in Facebook and other social networking sites.
Of course, the time during which employees are completing personal tasks at work is If your organization wants to curtail online shopping and other personal Internet access during work hours, partner with Information Technology to evaluate the risks and establish policies and procedures:time that they are not working for their employer. This intangible lost productivity cost can amount to thousands of dollars per individual each season. If the company has blocked site access from company computers, the employee could still use a Smartphone for at-work shopping.
- Work with IT to identify and understand specific risks and threats.
- Establish acceptable behavior limits on personal use of company equipment such as computers and communication devices. Consider the employee’s point of view in terms of time management and managing home, family and personal obligations.
- Create formal policies and procedures detailing those limits and the consequences of non-compliance.
- Identify industry tools to enforce the policies.
- Communicate with employees – include why it’s important to the business, the cost of lost productivity, and the dangers of virus and spam threats that threaten company equipment and security.
- Employees must understand that their jobs could be at risk for policy violation via normal progressive discipline practices.
Policies and procedures of this type should not be owned by Human Resources – rather by IT. However, HR must have input to their creation and implementation, and will be an integral part of enforcement and communication.
Employees accused of excessive online shopping may be experiencing addiction problems. If the behavior causes deteriorating work performance, problems with workplace relationships, or perceived financial or health issues, the employee may have a shopping addiction. If you or a manager suspects this, be sure to refer the employee to your EAP services quickly.
By investing some time in evaluating, planning and communicating expectations for employee online use, you’ll limit your organization’s exposure to Internet hazards as well as maintain employee productivity during the busy holiday season.