What CIOs Think About Online Holiday Shopping At Work

In the next few weeks workers will be tempted to peruse the Internet for killer discounts on four of the busiest online single-day shopping events of the holidays. A recent survey reveals the likelihood of whether your boss will be a Grinch or offer good cheer if you're caught.
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Starting this week, workers will feel the increasing pull to peruse the Internet for killer discounts on holiday gifts. After all, retailers are already touting deals to be found on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday.

But if you're at work when the shopping bug hits, what are the odds your boss will be cool with this extracurricular activity?

Only a quarter of chief information officers said their companies block access to online shopping sites, according to a Robert Half Technology survey of 2,500 CIOs. Does this mean the other 75% of employers think whipping out the credit card and charging ahead to online shopping sites are fine?

Not really.

Only 25% of CIOs surveyed said their companies allow unrestricted access to shopping sites, while nearly half, 48%, said they allow access, but monitor employees for excessive time spent on the sites.

"Many professionals appreciate the ability to get some quick online shopping done at work during the busy holiday season," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement. "But employees should recognize that most companies keep tabs on their online activity. Professionals should follow safe and secure browsing practices, and keep distractions at work to a minimum."

According to a Robert Half Technology survey of more than 1,000 US adult office workers, 24% have been caught shopping online by their boss. Of this group, 15% received a reprimand for shopping instead of working, while a far higher number, 31%, had a favorable outcome of "talking shop" with their manager.

The takeaway from these stats? Holiday cheer beats the Grinch.

Ones co-workers, however, get increased scrutiny. The survey found that 28% of employees said they believed their co-workers weren't pulling their weight when they scanned shopping sites on the company dime. Interestingly, though, a similar percentage of co-workers who shop online while at work, 30%, felt guilty about their activities.

The co-workers who feel other employees aren't carrying their weight when shopping online may have a difficult time swallowing the theory, held by 19% of workers surveyed, that their productively actually goes up when they shop online, because they don't have to leave the office.

These employees will be joining a huge pool of online shoppers sitting at their desktop computers and executing orders on the following four single-day events, which last year generated a total of approximately $6.2 billion in sales, according to comScore:

  • Thanksgiving Day: $1.01 billion, up 32% over 2013
  • Black Friday: $1.51 billion, up 26%
  • Cyber Monday: $2.04 billion, up 17%
  • Green Monday: $1.62 billion, up 15%

Although employees and other consumers threw far more money at Cyber Monday sales, its growth rate pales in comparison to Thanksgiving Day and is less impressive than Black Friday.

"Thanksgiving's recent growth is likely occurring because traditionally, it was more of a hassle to go online during the holiday when you're spending time with family," said Adam Lella, senior analyst of comScore's Marketing Insights. "Now, as people are more connected online than ever before due to smartphones and tablets, and as Internet speeds are faster, it's easier to quickly do some online shopping in between or while hanging out with family."

[Read Microsoft Black Friday Deals: Xbox, PC, Surface.]

He added there is no reason to believe that Cyber Monday will lose ground to another single-day sales event in the near future. Since 2009, Cyber Monday has been ranked as the No. 1 online shopping day, having taken the title from the previous top dog Green Monday, according to comScore. Green Monday got its name from being thought of as the best sales day in December. It is typically held on the second Monday of December, which is this year is December 14.

"Cyber Monday built a strong reputation for being one of the heaviest online spending days, which in turn caused retailers to push their biggest promotions on that day, which only then made it the top ranked online spending day," said Lella.

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