CareerBuilder Survey Sees Increase in Employees Shopping Online at Work

Fifty percent of employees are using time at work to shop online, up 3 percent from last year, and sales, financial services, and IT professionals are the most frequent shoppers, according to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.

The survey found that 63 percent of sales employees, 62 percent of financial services employees, and 57 percent of information technology employees reported shopping online at work; in contrast, just 39 percent of retail employees reported doing so.

"You've got people who are typically working a desk, but also [have] some mobility," says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. "You've got a lot of sales employees that are in the field—they're traveling." So businesses looking to reach these consumers should have their sites optimized for mobile, she adds.

Mobile technology, in fact, continues to be a growing presence in the workplace, as more workers are using their devices to shop, the survey found. Forty-two percent of employees reported using their personal smartphones or tablets for online shopping, up from 27 percent last year.

"Especially the large retailers are really optimizing the shopping experience on a mobile device," Haefner says. "The experience of that shopping and that momentum that builds through the holiday shopping season is really playing out on mobile as [it did on] desktop in years past. It's a growing market for sure."

Employers are hardly blind to the phenomenon, but the lines between work and personal activity are becoming increasingly blurry. Thirty-five percent of employers reported that even if employee performance is unaffected, they still care if employees are spending time on non-work-related emails and Web sites.

Additionally, 36 percent of employers reported that their organization monitors the Web sites employees visit, 55 percent restrict employees from posting on behalf of the company on social media (with 32 percent having implemented stricter social media policies over the past year), and 28 percent reported firing an employee for using the Internet for non-work-related activity (with 18 percent having fired an employee specifically for something posted on social media).

"From an employer standpoint…more and more organizations use social for their own purposes. Everybody's on there in one shape or form. One could argue that even if an employee is on there for very specific work-related items, there may be some content served up to them that they flag for 'Oh, that would be a great idea for my holiday shopping gift list,'" Haefner says.

"The boundaries are less. [There are] fewer black-and-white barriers people have to jump over whether you're doing productive work activities or personal online shopping—if you're in those social channels, you're a captive audience."

The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll between Aug. 12, 2015, and Sept. 2, 2015, the survey drew upon responses from 2,326 hiring and human resource managers ages 18 and over, and 3,321 full-time, not self-employed, non-government employees ages 18 and over.

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