Published November 27, 2012
What's your company's policy on employees doing their online shopping for holiday gifts from work? It may pay dividends to cut employees some slack at this time of year. Companies that allow workers to shop online at work may actually boost productivity and employee satisfaction, experts say.
For companies that act like Scrooge and lock down access to the Web during the holiday shopping season, though, beware of employees that could become unproductive clock watchers.
Having the right Web access policies and flexible web content filtering tools can make the difference, said Eamonn Doyle, president of Bloxx, a company that provides Web and email filtering and security services.
Most Web filters just block a list of predetermined inappropriate web sites and offer simple "yes" or "no" access to shopping or productivity-hogging games, entertainment or sports sites.
"It’s about fine-tuning Web access policies and controls," Doyle said. "Web filtering tools that give employees access to sites like Amazon.com or eBay during their lunch hour, for example, keep employees at their desks instead of driving to the local mall. This can actually boost their overall workplace productivity."
There are a number of filtering options open to organizations, Doyle said. They can offer employees access to shopping sites during designated hours or limit the time they can access such sites. Companies can also make seasonal adjustments to their access policies and Web page content categorization to allow an employee to shop for holiday deals on "sports equipment" but not access a "sports gaming" site.
"Close to 50 percent of online shopping takes place at work, so we need to find new approaches to Web access," said Doyle. "During the holidays, companies can be 'Scrooges' and lock down their Web access filters, turning employees into unproductive clock watchers darting out the door to do holiday shopping. Or they can be more 'Bob Cratchit-like' and provide controlled and safe access to commerce sites, keeping employees at their jobs, happy and productive."