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Shopping Near Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio - You are just about to place an item into the online shopping cart when you see your boss headed in your direction. Your computer screen is in clear view.

You minimize your screen, and get back to work. "Why is she still hovering?" you think to yourself. "I need to catch this Cyber Monday deal before it ends in a few minutes!"

The start of the holiday season is in full swing, with all of its rituals. You stuffed yourself on Thanksgiving. Got mauled at the mall on Black Friday. Cyber Monday is the day to click your way to online deals - often while at work.

Trying to hide your on-the-job Cyber Monday shopping - as long as it is within reason - might not even be necessary.

Sixty-five percent of employers either allow their employees unrestricted access to shop online or grant access but monitor it for excessive use, based on a recent survey of more than 1, 400 companies in the United States and Canada by Robert Half Technology, a staffing firm based in Menlo Park, California. The survey found that about one-third of companies actually block access to online shopping sites.

Another finding from the poll might offer a clue about why many employees try to hide that they are surfing for bargains: 55 percent of workers say their employer has not provided them with information or training about the company's information-technology security or online shopping policies.

"I don't think that most employers go out of their way to announce that, 'Yes, it is OK to shop at work, '" said Eric Younkin, branch manager of Robert Half Technology's office in Cleveland. "I think that is where using common sense and asking questions when it is necessary become important.

"If you are not sure what the policy is at work, ask you supervisor, ask your IT director, 'Hey, I want to do some shopping, am I allowed to that?'" he said. "'If so, when is it acceptable, and is there anything that I should look out for?'"

Take Plain Dealer poll: Are you shopping at work this Cyber Monday? (Poll)

While the term "Cyber Monday" wasn't coined until 2005, ordering online using work computers during the Christmas season dates to a time when many people didn't have Internet access at home. Now that Internet access at home and on mobile devices is common, though, the urge to shop at work hasn't diminished.

"It has definitely maintained its popularity, " Younkin said of Cyber Monday. "At the end of the day, people find it very convenient to shop online, and retailers are just as aggressive now with Cyber Monday deals as they are with Black Friday deals."

In fact, $3.36 billion is projected to be spent online this Cyber Monday, which is more than probably will be spent on any day between Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday, according to Adobe Digital Insights, which publishes digital marketing-related research. The projection for Black Friday spending online was $3.05 billion, but the actual total was $3.34 billion, Adobe reported Saturday.

"Cyber Monday will be the largest online shopping day in history, " the company predicted, projecting a 9.4 percent increase in sales over 2015.

A survey by shows that shoppers planned to spend four hours on Cyber Monday looking for deals. The Robert Half survey found that 49 percent of employees said they typically shop while in the office on Cyber Monday. (In addition to gauging employers' views on online shopping by polling chief information officers, Robert Half also surveyed 1, 400 workers.)

About one-third of workers said they would take the day off to shop.

Both the Robert Half and Adobe research show that in an age of mobile devices, most shoppers won't use these gadgets to make purchases. While Adobe found that nearly 60 percent of consumers would mobile shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, fewer than half intended to mobile shop on Cyber Monday.

The Robert Half survey found that 17 percent of workers said they would use a personal mobile device to shop. Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said they use a work-issued computer or device for online shopping. About a quarter of employees said they shop using both types of devices while at work.

Younkin said employees shouldn't think they aren't shopping at work because they are using personal mobile devices. Employers still are concerned about the impact of online shopping on productivity in the workplace.

Plus, online shopping can cause technical issues, such as slowing down the company's Wi-Fi when too many mobile devices are accessing it at once.

Sixty-four percent of respondents in the Robert Half survey said they had used a lunch break to track down deals. Younkin said that is probably a good strategy. He said searching for deals online is fine as long as it doesn't get in the way of the work day.

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