The Talk

’Tis the season to be violating your office computer policy?

- Last modified: December 9, 2013 at 2:46 PM

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When the holiday season gets hectic, people tend to look for ways to cut corners.
When the holiday season gets hectic, people tend to look for ways to cut corners.

It’s the December crunch. Time to get in the last sales of the year, clear out inventory or finalize next year’s budget and make sure everyone’s health care plans are in order for 2014.

It doesn’t help that what can sometimes be the busiest and most stressful time of the work year also can be some of the most stressful time at home.

Those Christmas cookies don’t make themselves. If you want to munch on a bunch of chewy snickerdoodles, you had better get baking.

Then it’s time to send out the Christmas cards. And don’t even think about picking up the old $5 box of 50 at the drugstore anymore. Today you’re expected to design your own with pictures of your smiling family and pets from your happy, joyful 2013.

Then there’s the decorating. Don’t your kids deserve the same memories of halls decked with bows of holly that you enjoyed as a tot?

It’s enough to drive anyone over the top and into the bright red and green, jingle-bell covered loony bin.

So who has time for the long, leisurely trip to the mall?

If you’re like most Americans – not you.

Good thing there’s the Internet, and lunch breaks (yeah, lunch breaks).

Surveys estimate that more than half of the American workforce plans to shop online at work this year. Presumably the other 50 percent don’t have Internet access at work.

In the early years of e-commerce, it was a bit of a scandalous notion.

Many a human resources exec was in a quandary about what to do about employees shopping on the job.

Surely it’s a hit to productivity if employees are browsing Amazon.com when they’re supposed to compiling their year-end sales reports.

Also, there’s a very real threat to network security if an employee lands on the wrong website and the company network is hacked or picks up a virus.

But now it’s 2013 and shopping online at work seems to be the norm. While five years ago the web was filled with stories about the benefit and or dangers of online shopping at work, this year such stories are surprisingly few and far between.

Has shopping online at work become accepted? Most companies have policies against it. Some even have firewalls to prevent access to such sites, but many seem to be taking a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy toward it.

In other words, as long as everyone is getting their job done, and isn’t abusing the privilege, the boss isn’t going to lower the boom.

Most employers understand that schedules can get crazy for employees trying to balance their work and home life during the holidays.

Heck, they’re probably in the same boat themselves.

A new spark of unconventional wisdom also has some employers rationalizing that it’s better for an employee to spend 10 minutes online buying that last minute stocking stuffer than to have them running 20 minutes late getting back from lunch because they had to run to the mall.

They’ll ultimately – and more quickly – be back to concentrating on work and won’t be stressing about other things that might break their concentration.

For employers who have been allowing it, begrudgingly, there might be light at the end of the cyber shopping tunnel.

Remember that in the early days of online commerce Cyber Monday came about because most people had faster connections at work than at home, so they saved their e-shopping for the Monday after Black Friday.

Now, most people have Internet speeds at home that rival or even beat their work connection. So, shopping at home is as easy as shopping at work – with less chance of a wrist slap.

Well, technology is continuing to improve, and now it’s getting easier to shop using mobile devices.

It may soon be as easy to order your holiday gifts on your iPhone on your lunch break, while waiting for your turn to order in the Taco Bell drive thru, as it is from your office desk.

When it’s less convenient to shop at work, it may become less common.

Today’s not-so-secret office cyber shopping may someday just be an amusing anecdote to tell at the office holiday party when gathered around the festive hologram Christmas tree.

That is, if we’re not all replaced by robots by then.

 

 

Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe covers technology and trends plus keeps you up to date on what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler and on social media. Reach her at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook and circle her on Google+.

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