Twenty-four percent of companies fired someone for inappropriate Internet use

Companies attempting to limit the online-shopping productivity drain this holiday season may need to start in the corner office, according to CareerBuilder's annual Cyber Monday survey. Senior-level employees* are more likely to use work hours to shop online than entry-level or professional staff members by a 7 percentage point margin: 53% to 46% respectively. Of this group, 10% admit they'll spend more than three hours or more of work shopping.

The nationwide survey was commissioned by CareerBuilder and conducted online by Harris Poll from Aug. 11 to Sept. 5, 2014, and included a representative sample of 2,203 hiring and human resource professionals and 3,103 full-time workers in the private sector, across industries and company sizes.

Fewer Workers Shopping Online This Year

Overall, fewer U.S. workers are planning to shop for the holidays online during work hours this year. In 2013, more than half (54%) of workers said they were using at least some work time to knock items off their list, but this year that number dropped to 47%: the lowest rate in the post-recession era.

Looking only at workers who plan to shop online at work, most (58%) say they plan to spend less than one hour doing so this season; 30%, however, will spend between one and three hours, 6% will spend between three and five hours, and 6% will spend five hours or more.

"So long as productivity and customer service meet expectations, many employers are lenient in regards to a small amount of holiday shopping at work," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "It's still advisable; however, to be mindful of your company's Web guidelines, as one in four managers tell us they've fired employees for non-work-related use of the Internet."

White Collar Industries Lead the Way in Shopping at Work

More than one in four (27%) say they use their personal smart phones or tablets to shop at work. While these devices certainly make it easier for workers in jobs requiring them to be on their feet all day to take advantage of holiday deals, workers in white collar industries and professions are far more likely to spend work hours shopping online:

  • Information technology: 71%
  • Professional & business services: 66%
  • Financial services: 60%
  • Sales: 57%
  • Healthcare: 52%
  • Transportation: 41%
  • Manufacturing: 40%
  • Leisure & hospitality: 39%
  • Retail: 29%

Internet Use in the Workplace

Employers are divided when it comes to how they let employees access the Web and communicate about the company on social media:

  • 53% of employers say their organization blocks employees from accessing certain websites from work, and 32% monitor the sites employees visit. These figures are similar to recent years.
  • 50% of employers restrict employees from posting on behalf of the company on social media, and 25% have adopted stricter policies in this regard over the past year.
  • One in four employers (24%) say they've fired someone for using the Internet for a non-work- related activity, and 8% of all employers pointed directly to online shopping at work. These figures are similar to last year.

*Senior-level employees include senior management (CEO, CFO, Senior VP, etc), vice presidents, directors, managers, supervisors and team leaders).