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Employees used to making discreet (or even secretive) ebay and Amazon purchases may soon be able to shop in the open. A new survey by staffing firm Robert Half Technology suggests a growing number of employers are willing to accept at least some amount of office time spent making online purchases during the holiday season.

Chief information officers at 270 companies across Canada were asked, “What is your company’s policy regarding employees shopping online while at work?” Only 32% of companies surveyed reported blocking access to online shopping sites, down from 57% last year. More than half of employers—54%—said they allow workers to visit shopping sites, but keep an eye out for excessive use. (In 2011, 30% reported monitoring use.) And more than 1 in 10 employers say they allow unrestricted access to the Internet.

“Many organizations are willing to offer more flexibility to their employees by permitting online shopping in the office during the busy holiday season,” says Lara Dodo, a regional vice-president of Robert Half Technology in Canada. Being more lenient has a practical upside for an employer, too. “Allowing staff to tackle their personal to-do lists at work assists in maintaining overall productivity,” says Dodo, “as they are less likely to confront the long line-ups and traffic delays that go along with holiday crowds.”

To keep staff from abusing a more relaxed Internet policy, Robert Half Technology recommends employers make the rules clear to staff members, encourage limits on surfing and smartphone use, and remind employees work comes first.

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