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Online shopping saps worker productivity, experts warn

24 November 2010 - 10:59 by Simon Crisp

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While the Christmas rush is great for e-commerce firms, many businesses could be suffering as a result of employees taking time away from productive tasks to carry out safe shopping online during working hours.

This issue is regularly raised and it seems that with the festive season getting into gear there are concerns amongst experts about how businesses can cater to the requirements of their staff, without taking a hit to productivity as a result of excessive personal internet usage.

While many UK businesses have policies which govern the amount of time employees can pass online each week, it is becoming increasingly difficult to police these types of restrictions, according to IT expert, Eamonn Doyle.

Mr Doyle said that the best way for employers to allow staff the freedom to shop online without this compromising their work was to better educate and train staff, so that adherence to the policy governing this type of activity is more likely. He pointed out that in many cases, employees would harness the internet at work for personal use, simply because they could not be seen doing so.

Forty-six per cent of safe shopping online occurs during the hours of a typical working day, according to statistics published by the Business Software Alliance. If each UK office worker spends an hour buying gifts online between now and Christmas, the total cost to the economy as a result of lowered productivity levels could hit £1.5 billion.

Mr Doyle blames not just business policy but also the methods of online retail firms for the time-sapping power of online shopping. Conformations, reminders and promotions bombard most consumer's email inboxes following a purchase and he sees this as key to the increasing amount of time which people dedicate to dealing with e-commerce when they should be working.