People & Human Resources

One in two Aussies shop online during work hours: How small businesses can tackle the issue

Caleb Triscari /

A growing number of Australians are using work hours to spend time online shopping, but employers have to do more to stop this if they’re not happy with the situation, says one HR expert.

A study from services comparison website finder.com.au surveyed 2085 workers and found almost 47% of respondents have shopped online during work hours.

Finder estimates the loss of productivity caused by this situation amounts to $31.1 billion annually. This figure has increased from $23.8 billion last year.

In a statement, Bessie Hassan, money expert at Finder, said the tendency for workers to browse products online is partially brought on by an increased blur between work and leisure.

“Many Aussies spend a large part of their work day in front of a computer so it can be easy to deviate from their tasks, especially when you consider newsletters and targeted marketing,” Hassan said in a statement.

“But on the flip side, it’s not uncommon to hear of some employees checking their emails at home, or answering a work phone call. Still, if you do feel like an online browse, do it within your break.”

The number of Aussies happy to take a bit of a break on the job to shop around has grown, up from 36% in 2017. The primary offenders were workers in New South Wales and Western Australia, with 70% of workers saying they have shopped during work hours. Victorians aren’t too far behind with 67%, followed by Queensland and South Australia with 64%.

Men are more likely to spend time shopping than women, with 36% of women saying they don’t online shop at work compared to 30% of men.

Stopping the problem from the start

Director at HR Staff n Stuff Deborah Peppard tells SmartCompany employers shouldn’t have to accept that workers are tempted to shop while on the clock, but businesses to have to step back and consider whether they are doing everything they can to stop this.

Peppard says there are two things employers should consider to ensure online shopping doesn’t become a problem in the workplace.

“The first thing is to absolutely have to have mechanisms in place to monitor the activity,” she says.

“They should have things in contracts or policies that advise employees they should not use work tools for private use and the business has the right to monitor usage.”

The second thing employers should be doing is creating a workplace culture that organically deters workers from getting distracted or losing motivation.

“If you have a good workplace culture where people are genuinely engaged in their work and they feel valued, most of the time they’ll do the right thing,” she says. 

Peppard cites professional development opportunities, regular employee catch-ups and clear goals as methods of retaining productivity.

“It’s really important people understand the larger business goals. Where is the business going? What is it trying to achieve and then what is my piece in that? Why is what I do important?” she says.

“When people don’t understand the value they’re bringing it’s hard for them to bring it. It’s this quid-pro-quo — when you do the right thing by your employees, they’ll do the right thing by you.”

NOW READ: Five ways to elevate your team morale

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is a former SmartCompany sub-editor.

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