I know what your employees are doing Wednesday at 4 p.m.

And while it may seem wrong, it’s OK to turn a blind eye to this behaviour

By Todd Humber (todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com

Everyone knows employees goof off during the work day. Always have, always will.

But technology is making it easier to track exactly when, and how, employees are goofing off, especially if they’re using their office computers to do it.

This isn’t news to employers. After all, many employers monitor Internet and email use in the workplace. Social network websites like Facebook and online game portals like MiniClip are common time wasters among desk jockeys.

Employers, for the most part, turn a blind eye to this activity, reserving punishment only for the most excessive use or for unacceptable behaviour such as online gambling or pornography.

Thanks to a recent British study, we now have some insights into another popular workday pastime among office workers — online shopping.

Invisible Hand, an online price comparison website in the U.K., found that not only do workers shop online during office hours (online retail stores are virtual ghost towns in the evenings and early mornings) but Wednesday is apparently the most popular day for workers to pull out credit cards and make a purchase.

Robin Landy, president of Invisible Hand, said there was a 52 per cent increase in shopping from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, with a surge of 75 per cent on Wednesday.

The busiest time for online purchases? That would be 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, which has led some experts to speculate workers are getting over the “hump day” blues by doing a little shopping.

For employers, the best reaction to this new bit of information is complacency. In other words: Don’t sweat it.

For stressed out employees, taking a few minutes of personal Internet time here and there is a nice outlet. Consider it the modern equivalent of a smoke break since most people have given up that habit or never started in the first place.

Unless, of course, personal use of the Internet becomes problematic, in which case employers shouldn’t hesitate to… wait… what’s that? Somebody in the cubicle across the way just said something about a clearance sale at The Bay. Gotta run.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resources management. For more information, visit www.hrreporter.com.

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