Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is typically the busiest shopping day of the holiday season -- at least at the mall. Online merchants, on the other hand, herald the arrival of Cyber Monday -- the Monday following Thanksgiving, when consumers swarm the Internet to find once-a-year deals with a few clicks of the mouse.
Seeing as Cyber Monday is still a workday for many, taking advantage of those bargains means some workers will likely be using their employers' computers and networks to tackle their virtual shopping lists.
Fresh data released Monday suggest that although slightly fewer Americans will be shopping online at work this season than last, the trend toward bigger online sales will likely continue and possibly surpass last year's Cyber Monday sales record, according to CareerBuilder, an online employment site.
CareerBuilder's survey found that half of U.S. workers plan to spend time holiday shopping online at work this season -- down slightly from 52 percent last year. Of those workers, 34 percent will spend an hour or more shopping (up from 27 percent in 2010) and 16 percent will spend two or more hours (up from 13 percent in 2010).
Conducted in mid-August through early September, the survey of nearly 4,400 workers and almost 2,700 businesses also showed that increased Internet activity by employees is being met with steadily tightening online policies by employers.
CareerBuilder found that half of U.S. companies monitor Internet and email use of employees, up from 47 percent last year.
"Most companies assume their employees use some of their break time on the Internet for shopping, checking social networks and other general browsing," says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources. "But when it starts adding up, workers need to be aware of company policies and any potential consequences."
Other findings from the 2011 CareerBuilder Cyber Monday Internet Usage survey include:
General Internet UsageTwo-thirds (65 percent) of workers spend at least some time conducting non-work related web searches in a typical workday; 22 percent find themselves conducting web searches unrelated to work.
- 22 percent of employers have fired someone for using the Internet for non-work related activity -- on par with 2010.
- 7 percent of human resource managers surveyed have fired an employee for holiday shopping.
- 54 percent of employers block employees from accessing certain websites -- up from 50 percent in 2010.
Social Media Usage
More than half (56 percent) of workers on social networks check their profiles during their typical workdays -- up from 49 percent in 2010. Of this group, around one in seven spends at least one hour a day browsing. Workers need to be especially careful of what they post about their company publicly.
- One-third (32 percent) of employers prohibit employees from communicating about the company on social media.
- 25 percent of employers report adopting stricter policies during the last year in regard to employees communicating about company on social media.
Personal Email Usage
Sixty-one percent of workers send non-work-related emails during their typical workday -- up slightly from 59 percent in 2010. Nineteen percent send more than five personal emails a day.
- 28 percent of employers monitor emails -- on par with 2010.
- 8 percent of employers report having fired someone for non-work-related emails.
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