HR Should Allow Cyber Monday Shopping at Work, Experts Say

Allow shopping, experts say, but give employees guidelines on safety and productivity

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright
HR Should Allow Cyber Monday Shopping at Work, Experts Say

​Cyber Monday is expected to be a very lucrative online shopping day, with an estimated $107.4 billion in online holiday purchases, reports Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), a division of the San Jose, Calif., based computer software company.

Much of that shopping will occur at work on company-owned devices.

Almost half (49 percent) of employees in North America said they typically shop from work on Cyber Monday, and 36 percent say they have taken a day off to shop, according to Robert Half Technology, a division of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing company Robert Half.

In its 2016 survey, Robert Half Technology also found that workers take time throughout the workday to shop, for example:

  • On their lunch break (64 percent).
  • When they're bored (43 percent).
  • While browsing online for something else (35 percent).
  • While spending time with their co-workers (17 percent).
  • During conference calls (8 percent) and even during in-person meetings (3 percent).

And although 65 percent of chief information officers say their organizations allow online shopping, 55 percent of employees have not been trained on IT security or online shopping policies, according to Robert Half Technology.

According to CareerBuilder's research, 42 percent of employees will shop using their smartphone or tablet at work.

Telling them not to shop is pointless, so what's HR to do?

"The best way to manage employees who will be shopping online on Cyber Monday is to educate them and give them parameters during the workday," said Cassandra Pratt, director of HR and recruiting for Progyny, a fertility company based in New York City. Adds career adviser Martin Yate: "It's best not to force employees to feel like they have to sneak around to accomplish their shopping goals today. Embrace the day and use it to boost employee engagement."

Experts say HR should encourage employees to follow a company's computer-usage policies and to be careful, as always, when visiting sites online—whether on Cyber Monday or any other day.

[SHRM members-only policy: Computer, E-mail and Internet Usage]

HR professionals should keep in mind that "hackers and cyber criminals thrive on digital information to propagate their malicious activities," and Cyber Monday offers plenty of opportunities for criminals to exploit unsuspecting buyers, said Morey Haber, vice president of technology for Beyond Trust, a cybersecurity company based in Phoenix.

He said employers should suggest that employees:

  • Use unique passwords for all online accounts.
  • Examine closely any "too good to be true" e-mail offer to ensure it isn't a social engineering or phishing scheme.
  • Look for secure, encrypted websites, which will have the https: designation and a small padlock icon in the address bar.
  • Update all security patches before shopping.
  • Not store credit card information on websites.
Shoppers should also be aware of fake shopping apps. Haber offered four clues to look for:

  1. An app appears to be from a major retailer but has few or no reviews. "Most major retailers have applications that have been downloaded thousands of times. New fake ones just do not have the credibility in terms of reviews."
  2. The developer's name seems to be in a foreign language or the developer is listed as an individual and not a company.
  3. The app requests permission to access information like photos, text messages or contacts that it really should not have a need for.
  4. The app's logo is not the same as the logo of the company you are looking for. For example, a Starbucks logo is always green and white. Variations would indicate a fake app trying to mimic the real deal. 
Pratt added that HR should also:

  • Expect that employees are going to shop on Cyber Monday when they are at work—unless all retail sites are blocked.
  • Ask employees to be mindful of the time they spend shopping during work hours.
  • Encourage employees to create a priority list to make sure their work gets done during the day.
  • Instruct employees not to download any programs to any work devices.

"It's not manageable to block all sites," she said, adding that setting up computers specifically for employees to shop on might seem like a solution, but it "ends up being a distraction." There's also the added concern of credit card information being captured on a shared computer and that one employee may steal another's information.

Generally, she and other experts said, employers need to trust that employees will do their work and manage distractions like online shopping on their own.

Employers hire people to do the job but also "because you believe they are responsible adults who work hard for your company. Trust them to manage their time, and give them suggestions on how to accomplish both."


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