online shopping at workStuck in front of computers and laptops all day, it’s increasingly normal to do some cheeky online shopping at work during business hours. And with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas still to come, it might hit your wallet – but can it impact your work reputation too?

Looking over your shoulder?
In 2014, research by cashback firm Quidco found that British office workers spent an average £1,400 online during working hours each year, mostly clothes, DVDs, gadgets, shows and birthday gifts. They found that over half of workers admitted they’d be scouting the web for presents while at work.

As we mentioned, the seasonal shopping frenzy is just getting warmed up, so it’s sensible to get ahead of it. But of the 2,000 workers surveyed, 36% of those were even spotted by their boss shopping online, with 12% given a formal warning (was one of them you?)

Why your boss is watching
They’re human and need to shop for presents too, but they’re also concerned with overall productivity. However, research reported by HR News had revealed that 67% of office workers polled had used their paid time in the office to shop – and some did little else.

As one Managing Director explained about an underperforming staff member: “We noticed she spent a lot of time reading her screen with not much action… After checking the browser history, we found in total she had wasted 47 hours in 5 weeks on her personal Christmas shopping whilst being paid to work. We’d missed opportunities in the business because of this, so had no option but to let her go.”

If you went purely by the national minimum wage of £7.20 per hour, over 47 hours that means almost £340 pounds lost by the business in that one instance. Imagine if most of the UK’s 32 million-strong employed did that, and you have a huge number of hours and millions of pounds lost.

So how can we lessen the impact of shopping while working?
Managing the impact of this shift to online shopping means working with it rather than against it. Some companies have made allowances for employees to do Christmas shopping during working hours, such as extended lunch breaks.

As long as you’re in front of a computer and your company’s IT policy leaves those sites unblocked, it’s going to happen. Balanced against whether or not you’re meeting your KPIs, it’s not likely to be so extreme that your browsing can cause real problems.

You can combine a quick shop with a break, mobile phone in hand – after all, you have to get back to your desk at some point! During peak periods like Christmas, it’s an idea to try and time deliveries to days where you’ll be around to receive them, which dovetails nicely with working from home. Or get deliveries to a convenient pick-up point, so your office mailroom doesn’t get overwhelmed.

Look at what works best with your lifestyle, working pattern and commute, and make sure that the only deal you pick up this coming Black Friday doesn’t have a P45 attached to it.

Happy holiday shopping!