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Laptops and computers, in general, are must-have technology gadgets in the 21st century. It is very generous when a company you are working for gives you a free laptop to do business on because they can be really expensive. But can you use them for personal use?
Using your company laptop for personal use is not recommended. It depends on the company policy, but in most cases, it’s smarter and safer to use it just for business-related activities.
When a company gives you a free laptop to take home it is undeniably tempting to use it like it’s your own. They give you your login information, installed apps, and everything you would need to successfully do your job.
People rarely care as much for company property because they assume it’s insured, and they didn’t pay for it so why bother. But remember, it always starts small. You should learn the risk before you give in to breaking the rules.
Can I Use My Company Laptop For Personal Needs?
Getting a new laptop is exciting, especially if you don’t personally own one. It’s very convenient to check emails and the web for the latest news, but where’s the line between innocent brief check-ups and misusing company property?
First, you should know that laptop isn’t yours. Just because you know the password and you get to take it home every night after work, doesn’t mean it’s yours and that you can use it however you want.
Before jumping to conclusions, check the company policy to find out how you can use that computer. Most company policies do not recommend using the laptop for personal pursuit, but check for that anyway. This type of policy you can find in the employer’s book.
Even if it says that you can use it, you shouldn’t be very reckless with it because the employer can always monitor it. It isn’t common for employers to go out of their way to make you aware your laptop is being monitored, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Even though you are just an employee in a firm, you still deserve some type of privacy and it is actually proven that knowing what type of monitoring occurs on your laptop has good effects on your relationship with your employer.
Can Work Laptops Be Monitored at Home?
Monitoring is when your employer has excess to your company computer and can see your activity on it. They can check your email, web searches, etc.
Surveillance of the laptops and technology, in general, depends on the type of company you work for and their business orientation.
Companies that handle sensitive business fields such as finance and security are more likely to have greater surveillance of the employee’s activities.
Companies usually monitor laptops through monitoring apps that are installed on the laptop before given to you. You can find those apps and check their capabilities on the Internet. If they’re hidden, you can always find them on the list of all apps installed.
You must never delete the monitoring app. That will raise great suspicion and your job may be put on the line.
Why Shouldn’t You Use Your Company Laptop for Personal Use?
Even if your supervisor tells you it’s fine to use your work laptop for checking email or playing games, you should still really think about it. There are a lot of risks that can occur and here’s a breakdown of them:
Storing personal files can be really risky because you never know what kind of monitoring are you under or who is getting your private information. You don’t want some random person reading your diary or knowing your medical history.
Those are sensitive information that a colleague can use against you.
Your personal files getting erased can be a big concern too. If the antivirus program detects malware on your laptop, it will start deleting all the files, including non-work related. If you save your files on a company laptop only, you will lose them forever.
Yes, being monitored only gives access to a small number of people working in a firm, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Another risk of putting your private information on company property is getting involved in some lawsuit. If your company gets into some law-breaking trouble, there is a high possibility the laptops will be taken and inspected.
You can easily get fired while being monitored based on you trying to find a new job and them finding emails about that. Employers won’t like that so be careful about them finding out.
You should never use company-issued Google accounts like Gmail, Slack, or Google Docs for personal use because a company can access them very easily even without monitoring your laptop because they have all the information in the first place.
Don’t let this fool you. They can access the non-Google apps too.
Even though there are options of private messaging on platforms such as Slack or Teams, supervisors can read that too if they want to, so don’t think you fooled them by messaging someone privately.
This is just a tip, but be very very careful with gossiping. It’s perfectly normal to be frustrated about something and vent about it to your colleague, but it can cause great harm to your career and if your supervisor sees that, you may be marked as unprofessional.
Employers can also check your time spent on the web and social media. This can be a bad thing if you’re late with some paperwork, but you have spent 2 hours on Instagram during work hours.
Professionals always recommend using your phone for those kinds of actions. Understandably, you want to check social media, but make sure it doesn’t interfere with your job.
Your employer isn’t your only concern. The ones who go through your laptop the most are people from IT. They can access your laptop through programs such as TeamViewer from far away in seconds.
They are the ones who repair your laptop and see everything. If they report something unethical to the supervisor, your job is at risk.
Also, your laptop could be given to another employee after your promotion or after you get a new one. If you forget to delete all the data, the laptop’s new owner could be having a great time going through it.
Every one of these situations can get you fired or deprived of promotions, so be careful.
You are not the only one who can be harmed by the misuse of a company laptop. There is a lot of risk for the company too, so here’s some advice on keeping your company’s information safe:
You must always ask before downloading any program or video game because it can cause a lot of problems.
First, the program you’re downloading can be a virus and the hackers behind the virus can steal the company’s data. You can get in great trouble in these kinds of situations, probably fired.
You should be very careful when connecting to foreign Wi-Fi networks. They can also be a cover for a hacker who can steal data and files from your laptop and endanger the company’s security.
No matter how much you trust your friends, never let them screen-share your laptop. You never know what can happen and again, the company’s data could be endangered and you could get fired.
Can You Play Games On The Company Laptop?
Your company gives you a laptop. You do your research and find out the laptop can run the games you always dreamed about playing. Tempting, isn’t it?
As said above, you must check the company policy before jumping to conclusions that your boss won’t mind. If you don’t find it in the company policy, you should ask the boss himself. You never know, maybe he’s a gamer himself.
If your boss allows you to download games, be very careful. Firstly, because he gave you a pass and secondly out of respect. Downloading games can be risky because of viruses.
You should download them from safe sites like Steam, Origin, and Battle.net. Those are well-known gaming platforms and will not harm your computer.
Also, think about time management with playing games during your work hours. Don’t let the games interfere with your work hours. Disable game notifications so when you’re working, you can be completely focused on your projects.
What Happens If You Damage Your Company Laptop?
You must always keep in mind. That is not your laptop. You didn’t buy it, it’s not yours. That’s a laptop your company gave you so you can do your job as well as possible.
Even though people don’t care as much about things if they didn’t pay for them, you should always have respect for other people’s belongings.
If you spill water on it, if the screen is in pixels, the first thing you should do is contact the IT team. They will know what’s best and you trying to fix it yourself can cause more damage.
Never take your laptop to independent repair shops. Every company has insurance and authorized vendors who can fix your laptop for a discounted price. Independent vendors can ruin your laptop and get you even more in trouble.
Don’t hide the damages because you might make the situation worse. It’s much better to tell the IT team immediately because some damages become greater over time and bringing the laptop in as soon as it happens can probably save the laptop.
Trying to hide it will just raise questions about your work ethics and how you handle a crisis. You will be looked at the wrong way and it will affect your business opportunities.
IT teams in big companies usually have spare laptops because there is always a risk of something getting broken. The insurance might cover the repair, but some companies insist on the employee covering the costs.
The bottom line is – you should be respectful towards your company’s property because it is there to help you with your work.
Never underestimate the skills of the IT team and be aware of the possible laptop monitoring that might be going on. Keep your and the company’s data safe and don’t let your personal life interfere with work.