Employers Relaxing About Online Shopping at Work Credit: Online Shopping Image via Shutterstock

Most employees won't have as big of a problem this year as last when it comes to squeezing in a little online holiday shopping at work, a new study finds.

Research from staffing firm Robert Half Technology shows that just one-third of employers block access to online shopping sites, down nearly 30 percentage points from a year ago. Fifty-five percent of businesses allow access, but monitor activity for excessive use.

Just 10 percent of the companies surveyed allow unrestricted access.

"Many businesses acknowledge the need for flexibility during the hectic holiday season and allow some online shopping at work, within reason," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology.

Reed added that allowing employees to tackle personal to-do lists at work can help maintain productivity because workers are spared the traffic delays and long lines that accompany holiday crowds.

However, while companies are being more lenient with their online policies, Reed advises professionals to exercise caution when shopping at work and avoid spending excessive time on nonbusiness activities, which can raise a red flag for employers.

Robert Half Technology offers several tips for employees who plan to shop online from the office this holiday season:

  • Know the rules: If an employer allows shopping at work, know the company's policy, including sites or hours to avoid, before searching for deals online.
  • Limit surfing: A liberal computer use policy is no excuse to spend the day filling your online shopping cart. Do your browsing out of the office and limit activity to quick transactions.
  • Be smart about smartphones: Mobile devices may be a way to get around a strict online shopping policy, but always put work first.
  • Score deals after work: No online promotion is worth putting a career at risk. If there are projects that require immediate attention, save holiday shopping for the evening or weekend.
  • Protect personal information: Avoid clicking on links or visiting sites that could infect the company's network with viruses or malware.

The research was based on surveys of more than 1,400 chief information officers from companies across the U.S. with 100 or more employees.

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