Why It’s Crucial to Respect Boundaries with Your Work Laptop – In today’s professional landscape, many of us are provided with company laptops to facilitate our work, whether we’re at the office, working remotely, or in a hybrid environment. With the convenience and flexibility that these laptops offer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of treating them as if they were our personal devices. However, it’s essential to maintain a clear distinction between work and personal use, as disregarding this boundary can have significant consequences. We spoke to IT experts who shared valuable insights on the top actions they would never take on a work laptop, providing us with important lessons to learn from.
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1. Treating the Work Laptop as Personal Property
The IT professionals we consulted unanimously emphasized that a work laptop is the property of the employer, regardless of how extensively you use it or how long you possess it. Jacqueline Pitter, a senior strategic consultant for Vantage Technology Consulting Group, stresses that while you are responsible for the laptop’s proper care, it should never be mistaken for personal ownership. As part of this responsibility, employees should never disable security features, such as the inactivity lock-out or antivirus software.
2. Leaving the Laptop Unlocked
IT experts understand the sensitive nature of the information stored on work laptops and take appropriate security precautions. Aviv Levi, a cybersecurity specialist at Atera, highlights the importance of always locking your workstation when you step away, even if it means interrupting your tasks. Leaving a laptop unlocked exposes confidential information, login credentials, and even opens the door for pranks or misuse by others.
3. Having Private Conversations on a Work Laptop
Recognizing that a work laptop is not personal property also means understanding that conversations conducted on it are not private. Employers often have access to work messenger services, like Slack, allowing them to monitor employees’ communication. Alex Ramirez, an IT independent consultant, advises against gossiping or engaging in any sensitive conversations using company property. Employers can legally review the contents of the laptop’s hard drive and activity logs when necessary.
4. Performing Personal Google Searches or Sending Personal Emails
It’s crucial to be mindful of what you search for or write on your work laptop, as employers may have access to this information. Safia Kazi, a privacy professional at ISACA, warns against typing anything that could be embarrassing if shared publicly, even when using personal email accounts. Keystroke tracking through employee surveillance tools can reveal the contents of personal emails sent from work laptops.
5. Accessing Inappropriate Content
Accessing inappropriate or offensive content on an employer-owned work laptop is not only unprofessional but can also lead to disciplinary action and legal repercussions. Oren Elimelech, the chief information security officer of Atera, urges employees to avoid websites or content related to gambling, pornography, or illegal activities.
6. Saving Personal Documents on the Desktop
Employees must remember that access to their work laptop can be immediately revoked, particularly in the event of layoffs. To avoid losing personal documents, Jacqueline Pitter advises against storing them solely on the work laptop. Cybersecurity experts also recommend deleting personal files, tax documents, contacts, and personal photos from the laptop before leaving the company. It’s wise to have backups in a personal cloud storage solution, such as Google Drive.
By adhering to these boundaries and respecting the fact that a work laptop is not truly yours, you can mitigate the risks associated with unauthorized access, privacy concerns, and potential data loss. Jacqueline Pitter reminds us that we are merely borrowing these laptops and should always maintain a clear distinction between personal and work-related activities.