Holiday shopping at work? That’s OK with most IT managers

The holiday season is in full swing, and just as in years past, IT departments must make a decision on whether users should be able to do their holiday shopping at work. 

Compared to previous years, IT managers are now much more tolerant of holiday shopping at work, according to a recent survey from IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

Among the 1,400 IT leaders surveyed, just 33% said they planned on blocking access to online retail sites in the office. That’s compared to 60% who said they were banning holiday shopping at work in the same survey last year.

That doesn’t mean organizations are now giving users free rein over how they use the workplace Internet connection. But compared to 2011, more IT managers are taking the approach of allowing access — at least until a problem arises.

More than half (55%) of the organizations in the poll said they allow access to holiday shopping at work but monitor Internet activity to watch for excessive personal use. Just 10% said they allow unrestricted access to retail websites. In 2011, 13% of companies allowed unrestricted access and just 23% allowed access but monitored activity.

According to Robert Half, employers are softening their stance because they believe allowing people to take care of some personal tasks in the office can boost productivity and morale.

IT departments can help avoid problems before they happen by reminding users’ of the company’s stance on monitoring Internet use — often just the threat of monitoring is enough to keep personal web use to a minimum.

Also, it may be a good idea to remind users to watch out for holiday shopping scams that could have serious consequences for people’s personal finances or the company’s IT security. For example, security vendor McAfee recently warned about scammers using hacked social media accounts to spread malicious links disguised as online shopping deals.