Survey: Companies Allowing Workplace Holiday Shopping

December 10, 2003 ( - If recent data can be believed, many workers are shopping till they drop - while at work.

According to the survey by SurfControl, a company that sells software that blocks unauthorized Internet access, seven out of 10, or 67%, of US companies said they don’t restrict employees’ access to online shopping sites. Employers allowed workers to browse retail, catalogue and greeting card Web sites, according to the survey that polled 1,300 companies in the United States that use Web filtering to manage employee access to Internet sites. An equal number of companies (70%) also reported they don’t restrict access to eBay and other auction sites.

Not surprisingly, companies’ top Internet use restrictions by far applied to sexually explicit Web sites and Web-based e-mail, such as Yahoo and Hotmail. Ninety-seven percent of the companies responded that their policies specifically restricted access to sexually explicit Web sites, while 45% said they restricted access to Web-based e-mail.

“While the Internet poses numerous risks, it’s clear that corporate America does not consider shopping as much of a risk as pornography and Web- based e-mail, both of which can present a liability risk to the organization,” said Susan Getgood, SurfControl’s senior vice president of marketing, in a statement. “The results suggest that companies are more tolerant about online shopping and focus more on monitoring abusers. It appears many firms are trusting employees to use good judgment about how and when they use the Internet at work, as long as it doesn’t become a productivity issue.”

SurfControl also surveyed 1,400 British companies and found their attitudes similar to those of their US counterparts. Six out of 10, or 61%, of British companies reported they don’t restrict employees’ Internet access to shopping sites, while 97% restrict access to sexually explicit Web sites.

The survey of 2,700 IT administrators in the US and Britain by SurfControl, was conducted during the last two weeks in November.