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5 Tips for Online Holiday Shopping From Your Office Cubicle

The holiday shopping season has hit like a ton of fruitcake and you’re stuck in your cubicle watching the days ’til Christmas tick by faster than faster than a paper jam in that vintage copy machine.

If you’ve considered spending a few extra minutes at work shopping online to cross some extra names off your list, you’re not alone.

According to research from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, 32 percent of employees plan to complete some holiday shopping using employer-issued technology (either computers or mobile devices).

A whopping 40 percent of women ages 18 to 54 shop an average of 15-30 minutes a day at work – with busy moms shopping for even longer periods online, according to AOL Advertising.

But a word to the wise to all you holiday multitaskers: your boss isn’t too happy about your extracurricular activities during office hours.

Up to 60 percent of employers will be cracking down on employees shopping online during the holidays, according to a survey of 1,400 companies conducted by Robert Half Technology that was reported on by the Baltimore Sun. This number is up from 48 percent of companies that blocked access to online shopping sites last year.

Twenty-three percent of employers said they will allow employees access to these sites, but plan to monitor them for excessive use.

According to the survey, employers expect that their workers to spend more than four hours a week surfing for online deals this holiday season. No wonder they want to be vigilant!

Lost productivity isn’t the only thing employers are concerned about. According to the ISACA, using company computers or mobile devices puts businesses at a greater risk for viral internet threats, including malware and phishing schemes.

While searching for to-good-to-be-true deals, employees are more likely to click on dubious e-mail links or share personal information on unverified websites. What’s more, two-thirds of participants in an ISACA survey said they don’t use secure browsing technology on their work-issued devices – half assumed that the IT department would handle any security problems.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you start shopping online from your desk:

1. Your boss is watching you. Three quarters of all U.S. employers monitor employee internet use, according to surveys by the American Management Association and other groups. If you are planning on doing any shopping during the work day, we suggest only bargain hunting on your lunch break and sticking to rated G sites (as in, skip buying that edible underwear for your fiance).

2. Know your company’s policies. Your bosses and the IT department are legally permitted to track how you’re spending your time online at work and are allowed to block your access to certain sites from work computers. If there is a written company policy on using office equipment, be sure to read up to make sure you’re not violating any rules by making bids on eBay or cashing in on free shipping from Best Buy. Oh, and don’t complain to the IT guy when all of the sudden you can’t access Find out if there are sites or hours you should avoid shopping.

3. Use your own device. Rather than risk your work-issued laptop or mobile device, stick to making any online purchases on your own computer or phone. But again, this doesn’t give you carte blanch to spend four hours of your shift maxing out your credit card; try to limit your shopping to lunch breaks, and if you do start creeping into work hours, be sure to make up the time by staying late or coming in early. Remember, the big guy is watching to see who’s been naughty or nice.

4. Buy, don’t browse. If your company is kind enough to overlook a little non-work-related internet use, don’t take advantage. Stick to making quick online purchases rather than endless browsing. Save the homework part of your holiday shopping for home.

5. Be safe. Don’t get yourself into hot water by crashing a company computer while visiting a disreputable site. The ISACA offered the following tips for protecting a company network when using a work computer or mobile device to shop:

• Do not click on an email or web link from an unfamiliar sender, or one that looks “too good to be true”.

• Be careful with company information that can be accessed through your mobile device (it suggests using a privacy screen shield).

• Password-protect your mobile device and its memory card.

• Make sure the security tools and processes protecting your work-supplied mobile devices are kept up to date.

Photo courtesy of Sqback on stock.xchng

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