Work computers are for one thing: Work. And anything outside of work could jeopardize your career.
While you might assume that clearing the history log in your computer is enough to get rid of any evidence that you’ve been shopping, tweeting or searching for new jobs, IT departments are still able to monitor computer use.
“Any personal data or behavior done on any work device can and is collected by your employer,” management expert Andrew Wittman told the Business Insider. “Be mindful of every search, click and email sent, as well as any personal data or behavior, including searches, shopping, social media, emails and websites visited.”
To help you be mindful, we’ve curated this list of 10 things you should never do on your work computer.
Table of Contents
1. DON’T: Save personal passwords.
According to the Society of Human Resource Management, many companies have a clause in their computer, email and internet use policy that makes storing personal passwords a potentially precarious move. It reads:
“E-mail and other electronic communications transmitted by [Company Name] equipment, systems and networks are not private or confidential, and they are the property of the company. Therefore, [Company Name] reserves the right to examine, monitor and regulate e-mail and other electronic communications, directories, files and all other content, including Internet use, transmitted by or stored in its technology systems, whether onsite or offsite.”
Most of us use our work devices for eight or more hours a day. Therefore, it’s so easy to click the button when prompted to “save password in keychain.” But think twice before you do it, as it may be against policy.
2. DON’T: Whine, overshare, gossip or make off-color jokes on messaging software.
Chatrooms like Slack, Campfire and Google Hangout are becoming increasingly handy for team collaboration, which also means that it’s easy to use them as though you were Facebook messaging a friend. But you most certainly shouldn’t be.
Whine about your needy boss, your slacking coworkers or the broken coffee machine when you get home to your friends and family. Don’t whine at work, especially via a messaging software from your computer. For one, your complaints will be in writing, which means they can be shared. For two, even if no one actually passes them along, your employer can still see what you’re doing on your computer — and you don’t want to be caught doing that. If you have an issue, perhaps it’s something you need to take up with HR instead.
The same goes for oversharing and gossiping. While you don’t need to be a closed book at work, you don’t want to be the center of drama either. You will be viewed as unprofessional and rumors that you spread could hurt team productivity.
As for off-color jokes, you shouldn’t be telling them in the workplace to begin with, but you definitely shouldn’t be putting them in writing. Someone can share or find them, and you can and probably will get fired for certain things you say (read: sexist, racist or homophobic messages).
3. DON’T: Access free public Wi-Fi.
A report on telecommuting in the United States from FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce, found that 3.9 million U.S. employees who make up 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce work remotely at least half of the time. For many of them, it can be tempting to log into free public Wi-Fi if they’re working from somewhere like a coffee shop, an airport, a hotel or some place else.
But places that offer free Wi-Fi can open you up to fraud. Con artists set up fake networks that often look like the real thing but aren’t, which means those networks are not secure. Because of that, you can accidentally be sharing your company’s sensitive information stored on your computer with just about anyone. In fact, software technology company Check Point conducted a survey of over 700 IT professionals that revealed that nearly two-thirds of IT professionals believe recent high-profile breaches were caused by employee carelessness.
4. DON’T: Shop.
Maybe it’s Cyber Monday or maybe your inbox got inundated with sale emails from Macy’s, but you really shouldn’t be spending your time at work online shopping — and you definitely shouldn’t be getting those orders delivered to the office either.
For one, you should be working. For two, you don’t want to be storing your credit card information on your work computer anyway — others have access to it.
5. DON’T: Work on your side hustle.
Since so many jobs are remote these days, a lot of people are picking up second and third gigs they can do during after-work hours from their computers. There’s just one problem: after-work hours are spilling into work hours, and people are starting to do two jobs during one.
Don’t blur the lines when you’re on the company dime. It’s not only unprofessional, but it’ll also mean that the work you can be doing to get ahead and prove yourself as a valuable employee (who maybe even deserves a raise down the line), is being neglected. You don’t want to do sub par work for any of your jobs, so commit 100 percent to the present job and leave the side hustle for the side.
6. DON’T: Look for a new job.
This one might be obvious, but it still happens. A survey from staffing firm Accountemps found that about three in 10 workers would be likely to do things like search for a position online or take a call from a recruiter while they are at work.
Here’s the thing: Never use your work computer to look for a new job. Ever.
First of all, you could get fired before you even quit, and then you’ll have to explain that to prospective employers in interviews. Second, if you’re researching competitor jobs, you might face more serious issues with security, confidentiality, and non-compete agreements.
7. DON’T: Store your personal photos.
You shouldn’t be storing your personal photos on your work computer for a number of reasons. First, you’re consuming valuable storage space and putting your device at risk for viruses. Second, you’re putting your personal life out there and, depending on what the photographs are of, doing so could pose problems with your workplace — if you’re drinking alcohol, wearing a bikini or doing something else that might be totally fine out of the office but inappropriate in the office, it shouldn’t be in the office even virtually. Third, you could lose them altogether if you’re let go and have to leave immediately.
8. DON’T: Do your banking.
Unless you want your IT department and possibly your boss to know how much money you have or don’t have, you don’t want to be doing your banking on your work computer. You simply just have no privacy.
9. DON’T: Play games.
Unless you work for a video game company, it’s definitely not a good idea to be playing games on your computer. If someone were to find games on your computer, they might assume that you’re slacking at work to beat your high scores instead. And many games that are downloaded could spread viruses.
10. DON’T: Spend all your time on social media.
A lot of companies actually ban the use of social media while at work, because all too many of us get distracted and sucked in. If you have access to social media, you should really only be using it to check the news or if you have to use it for work purposes. You shouldn’t be messaging friends, sending tweets about your crazy coworkers or posting Instagrams of your weekend.
Why? A Proofpoint Survey found that 20 percent of surveyed employers disciplined employees for improper use of blogs or message boards, 14 percent for social network violations and 11 percent for improper use of media sharing sites. You don’t want to be part of that percentage.
- What jobs can I do from my computer?
There are tons of jobs you can do remotely from a computer. Here’s a list of work-from-home companies to get you started.
- Can your employer monitor what you do on their computer?
Yes. Anything you do on your work computer, especially if the computer is the property of your company, is subject to monitoring.
- Can I use my personal computer at work?
You may be able to use your personal computer at work depending on your workplace. You’ll have to ask your employer.
- How does the PC work?
To learn more about how PCs work, check out this article on How Stuff Works.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.