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Buyer beware

More companies have relaxed their policies about shopping online while at the office, but that’s not a green light to spend the workday in virtual retail heaven.

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According to Bean, overall workplaces are becoming more flexible and less concerned about lapses in productivity. She says the number of companies that restrict access online has come down significantly over the last few years — in 2011, 60% of CIOs surveyed said they were blocking access to all online shopping entirely that year.

“Our findings show that employees may use lunchtime or downtime to get a bit of multitasking done, but it doesn’t seem to be a hindrance on productivity or ability to get work done. However, a small percentage of employees may abuse the privilege, at times.”

A few quick tips for employees:

  • Learn the rules. Before you shop, make sure you’re familiar with your company’s web policy. Most employers have rules about sites or hours to avoid. If the policy is unclear, play it safe and save your shopping for before or after work.
  • Limit surfing. Unrestricted access to the internet doesn’t mean you should spend the whole day searching for deals at your desk. If you plan to do the majority of your holiday shopping online and want to snag deals that day, take a personal day off or conduct your browsing away from the office and limit your shopping activity to quick transactions when at work.
  • Log out of accounts. After you’ve completed your online purchases at work, remember to log out of your merchant accounts on your computer to protect your personal information.

“Employees should avoid spending excessive time at work on non-business activities, even if their firm has a liberal online shopping policy,” advises Bean. “It’s in no one’s best interest to be flagged as someone who spends a lot of work time on shopping sites.”

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