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1 in 3 Americans Shop Online at Work: FindLaw.com Survey

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on November 26, 2014 9:04 AM

Employers may need to account for some extra online activity this holiday season: employees' furtive online shopping at work.

A new FindLaw.com survey has found that approximately one in three Americans admit to shopping online while on the clock -- and not just during the holidays. Many of those surveyed explained they simply didn't have time outside of work to do their shopping.

How can employers craft company policy to account for this online shopping trend?

Employee Internet Use

According to FindLaw.com's newest survey, 35 percent of Americans admit to doing their online shopping while still at work, and for a variety of reasons:

  • To keep purchases a secret from family (28%)
  • Not enough shopping time outside of work (24%)
  • Faster/better Internet connection at work (17%)

As a small business owner, you may not be bowled over with sympathy by the idea that your employees need to hit up Amazon at work because the Internet connection is excellent. And employers don't have to look the other way on non-work-related Internet activity using company resources. Employee Internet usage is your company's business -- especially on a company computer or company network.

Policy on Online Shopping

Some studies have shown that allowing employees more freedom to browse (or maybe shop) at work can increase their productivity. Take that insight with a grain of salt when considering how to restrict your employees' Internet use. No one policy is universally applicable to every small business, but keep these principles in mind:

  • Caution against blanket bans. Banning all Internet use that isn't work-related may be difficult to enforce and may infringe on your employees' labor rights.
  • Treat your employees like adults. Some Internet usage is not work-related but is fairly innocuous. Instead of enumerating a list of barred activities, give your employees the benefit of using company time/resources for company goals.
  • Consider a content filter. Web content filters can help employees take the guesswork out your company's Internet policy by blocking specific sites. Don't want your employees on Zappos or Amazon? Block those sites.
  • Be consistent with discipline. If you plan to discipline your employees for violating the Internet policy, be consistent. Inconsistency can be viewed as favorable treatment or illegal discrimination.

Online shopping at work shouldn't have to be your legal Waterloo, at least not with an experienced business attorney on hand.

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