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Shopping online at work? Why your bosses might care


November 28, 2019   by Adam Malik


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There’s a good chance you’ll be tempted to put work aside and look for deals with Black Friday sales online. If you’re using your work device, your employer will likely look the other way. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns about you shopping while on the clock.

Nearly 40% of Canadian employees told a recent survey that they’ll be “work-shopping” – shopping online from their work computer or mobile device – this holiday season. More than one in five (21%) said doing so would get in the way of productivity – and that’s a major concern for employers, along with security risks.

Seventy-six percent of leaders told staffing firm Robert Half that they allow for their staff to shop while on the clock, though many (55%) would prefer if it was done using a non-corporate device.

Canadian Underwriter sought out some industry contacts and asked what the insurance industry allows their staff to do. Use of company devices for personal use is a reality in today’s day and age, Intact responded. “Technology is changing the way we live and work. We understand that people may occasionally need to use corporate devices for personal reasons.”

Deborah Bottineau, district director for Robert Half Technology, agreed. This is a stressful time of year between social obligations and wrapping up year-end projects, so “online shopping during the workday can be a helpful way to manage to-do lists and alleviate some of the pressures of the season,” she added.

Productivity loss was a concern for 30% of survey respondents. In the insurance industry, companies don’t want to see such tasks get in the way of helping clients. “We trust that our people will not let such instances affect their ability to serve customers or do their work,” an Intact spokesperson said.

Aviva’s chief people officer Danny Davies told Canadian Underwriter that they “trust our employees to use their best judgement when it comes to balancing their job duties and any online personal tasks while at work, and we provide them with a flexible work environment that allows them to find those moments of balance as they come up.”

Security concerns, however, topped the list for tech managers with 62% highlighting it as an issue. Unwittingly shopping with a nefarious website or opening phishing emails from personal inboxes can expose corporate networks to cyber risks. “Ensuring employees limit their browsing time and understand safe online practices can mitigate potential risks to the organization and help staff stay productive both at and outside of work,” Bottineau recommended.

Davies did note that Aviva’s “IT care team is focused on protecting our systems and our customer data” at all times.

At Intact, “our people know everyone plays a role in IT security and that protecting customers’ data is paramount,” the company said. “We all undergo training and refreshers regularly to stay vigilant and keep up to date with best IT security practices.”