Online shopping – good or bad for business?

There’s only a couple of weeks left for Christmas shopping and the January sales just around the corner and with an estimated 74% of UK adults now shopping on line , some of your employees may by using work time and equipment to engage in some retail therapy.

According to a survey commissioned by IT security form GFI Software, personal use of company devices is not only wasting a lot of company time but increases the risk of losing confidential data or introducing viruses on the system.  The employers of 40% of those surveyed had suffered a major IT disruption caused by staff visiting questionable and other non-work related websites with work-issued hardware, resulting in malware infection and similar problems. It also found that 35% of staff leaving a company would not hesitate to take email archives, confidential documents and other intellectual property from their work-owned computer before returning it.

However, Ingrid Waterfield, director in KPMG’s People Powered Performance team, has put an alternative view forward, suggesting that a little give and take could actually boost staff morale forward. She argues that employers who restrict access to shopping sites during working hours may be doing long-term harm to business productivity.

“If organisations are more concerned with the hours put in by staff, than the results they deliver,” she points out, “the likelihood is that employees will find subtle and subversive ways to undertake personal tasks when they should be working.” By all means, make staff aware of the impact that excessive time spent on personal tasks can have, Ms Waterfield continues, but not to the point of being patronising or introducing seasonal bans on internet access.

By providing staff with specific times to shop online during the working day, she suggests, employees are more likely to appreciate the permission they have been given to take advantage of any bargains they can find on-line.

Whatever your view as an employer, you must ensure you have clear policies and guidelines in place to manage the situation, back up with technology to limit access to the more challenging parts of the internet.

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