Online holiday shopping at work may be huge drain on time, bandwidth

With the official start of the holidays upon us, what are you workers really doing?

With Black Friday just a week away and the nagging feeling that we need to get our holiday shopping done, how much online buying will be done at work?

If it's not, this is the question that should be on IT managers' minds, according to some industry analysts. If workers are busy buying iPad tablets on sites like Apple.com, or scarves on LLBean.com or Amazon.com, employee productivity could plummet as fast as winter temperatures.

That's not to mention what all that holiday shopping during office hours could mean for office bandwidth.

"We know it's going to happen. I think it's unavoidable," said Jim Melvin, president and CEO of AppNeta, a performance management company based in Boston. "We take our work home with us and we take our lives into work. If it's my laptop and I'm at work and I'm having a coffee break, I'm going to get my shopping done. We're seeing more and more of this blending of work and home life."

That blending, said Melvin and industry analysts, is exacerbated by the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.

With workers using their own smartphones and tablets for work, they are feeling more free to use them to check off items on their holiday shopping lists during work hours. After all, they figure they can do what they want on their own device.

The issue, though, is that they're using the company network and, often, they're shopping on company time.

"I'm sure in my company it's only on their coffee break but outside of my company I think people are shopping when the mood strikes them," Melvin joked. "There's no question that bring your own device accentuates people's tendency for shopping while they're at work."

Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester, said there's a definite blurring of lines between work and personal life that affects what people do during office hours, and shopping is no exception.

"Face it, we're more connected," said Gillett. "There's simply more opportunity out there for people to try to figure out how to juggle your work/life balance.

Another factor affecting how much online shopping people will do at work is the fact that shoppers are expected to do a lot more of their holiday buying online this year.

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