CINCINNATI — This is the time of year to furtively hide your credit card under your desk and buy Christmas presents online as you side-eye passing co-workers with paranoia.

Everybody’s doing it. Or to be more accurate, 1 in 2 American workers have committed the workplace sin of online shopping during work hours, according to a pre-holiday CareerBuilder survey.

The good news: Less than half, 42%, said they would spend more than an hour at work during the Christmas shopping season buying items online.

Yet the trend of shopping on the job is increasing, according to CareerBuilder’s poll of 3,321 U.S. employees. Half of workers admitting to shopping online at work compared to 47% last year.

Employers are noticing the trend, and some of them aren’t happy it, a Findlaw survey of 1,000 U.S. employees showed. Companies are responding by disciplining or even firing employees, with 1 in 8 managers saying they have fired someone for holiday shopping online while at work, up from 1 in 12 last year.

The Findlaw survey, which has a margin of error of ±4 percentage points, also states that half of workers use company equipment such as phones and computers for personal reasons. The CareerBuilder survey has a margin of error of about ±2 percentage points.

Whether an employee is penalized comes down to two things: a company’s values and the amount of time an employee is spending, human resource experts said.

“The impression that I get from talking to clients is that shopping in moderation — a little bit here and there — is overlooked depending on the culture of company,” said Cathleen Snyder, director of client relations with Strategic HR in Sycamore Township, Ohio.

Snyder writes human resource policies for Strategic’s clients, which range from small family-owned businesses to large companies. She said she has written zero-tolerance policies for several area companies, adding that those firms were all in the service field.

“I think it also depends on the size of a company,” she said. “Smaller companies will feel the impact of two or three employees who are spending all day online shopping.”

A Society of Human Resource Management study shows that more than half of employers, 55%, are fine with employees shopping online — during lunch and breaks.

About 13% found shopping any time acceptable “as long as the employee is on schedule with his or her work.” Roughly a third of employers were absolutely against online shopping at work. The study’s margin of error was ±5 percentage points.

For Brandon Downing, Tristate regional leader of BelFlex Staffing Network, his roughly 40 office employees don’t have enough time in their workday to shop online.

The job placement agency with locations in Cincinnati; Florence, Ky.; and Indianapolis primarily places individuals in warehousing and distribution jobs. It’s a field that has grown exponentially since Internet sales have risen every holiday season.

“When you’re in the recruiting business, you’re constantly on the phone with clients and potential workers — especially at this time of year,” he said, “We’re way too busy for that.”

Downing acknowledged that he wouldn’t mind if his employees spent a few moments to purchase Christmas presents for loved ones during their lunch break, “given that the workers are putting in so much extra effort.” He said many workers put in overtime to fulfill their duties during the holiday season.

Roughly 1 in 5 workers said they are more productive when they shop online because they don’t have to leave the office, according to a study conducted by Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif.

About a quarter of workers surveyed were caught shopping online, especially where company computer monitoring takes place, according to the Robert Half’s survey of chief information officers in 25 metro areas and more than 1,000 office workers. Almost a third ended up sharing the bargains they found with their managers.

Follow Fatima Hussein on Twitter: @fatimathefatima

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