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Should we let employees shop online?

Bargain hunters and Christmas shoppers create productivity and cyber security risks at work

In 2016 one in 20 workers planned to “pull a sickie” to create more time for online shopping

Research carried out by Beaming in the run up to Black Friday 2016 showed that more than two thirds of UK internet users planned to shop online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, spending more than four hours hunting for bargains and buying presents on average. Almost a fifth of this online shopping activity was to be conducted by people at work, impacting on productivity and increasing the potential for cyber security problems. So should we let employees shop online? With spending set to increase again this year, it’s likely that there’ll be a corresponding increase in employees taking advantage of their workplace internet connection to do a spot of online shopping. Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming, comments: “Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now firm fixtures in the UK’s online shopping calendars. While good news for e-commerce retailers and customers, these events have the potential to harm productivity and expose businesses to greater cyber security risk. Companies need to think about how they manage this.”

According to Beaming’s snap poll…

  • 41% of people polled planned to start their online shopping sprees during office hours (9am – 5pm) on Black Friday, with a third of these beginning at 9am. 35% of people were to start shopping online during office hours on Cyber Monday.
  • 71% of those polled said they would visit online retailers on Black Friday, compared to 67% on Cyber Monday. On average, online shoppers intended to spend two and a half hours engaging with internet retailers on Black Friday and two and a quarter hours shopping online on Cyber Monday.
  • While 18% of online shoppers planned to shop during their breaks and 16% said their employers trusted them to make up any lost time, 6% of people told Beaming they would need to shop in secret while at work.
  • 5% of online shoppers said they planned to “pull a sickie” on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to provide more time for internet bargain hunting and pre-Christmas shopping.

Managing people & networks on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Sonia Blizzard comments: “The main threat of these big retail events is cyber-crime. When people trawl the internet for bargains they become easy prey for the kind of retail click bait criminals use to infect corporate systems. Clicking on one erroneous link can expose a business, its entire network and everyone they trade with to greater risk of data theft and computer viruses, the bills for which can be enormous.”

“Employers can use Black Friday and Cyber Monday as an opportunity to educate their people. They should have honest conversations about cyber security, encourage people to speak up if there is any possibility of a breach and create goodwill by allowing staff to shop online during their breaks but we would recommend that this is done away from their desks. Allowing staff to access a separate internet connection on their own devices is the best way to keep this kind of traffic off the main business network and minimise the risk of damage to systems.”

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