If you're storing personal material on your work computer, you could be setting yourself up for some serious trouble.
"As a general rule of thumb, keep all your work and private computer use separate," Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of "The Humor Advantage," told Business Insider. "If necessary, ask what is permissible and use a portable flash drive to store any private items you need to access from a work computer."
Kerr said that, while laws vary between jurisdiction, your company may have rules about computer use. When it comes down to it, it's better to err on the side of caution.
"It protects you and your firm," management expert Andrew Wittman told Business Insider. "If you take work home and use a laptop, dedicate a laptop for work."
He said that during his career in law enforcement, he witnessed an occasion where a police officer's professional notebook was admitted as evidence in a trial.
"He had notes from several cases and lots and lots of personal items," Wittman said. "Beyond embarrassing, it opened him and the department up to potential liability."
Wittman said that the same thing can happen to anyone if they store personal items on their work computer.
Here are some items you should avoid storing on your work device:
Personal photos or videos
"Your work computer is for work," Résumé Writers' Ink founder and career expert Tina Nicolai told Business Insider. "It's always smart to keep personal separate from business. You're not getting paid for your personal time."
So saving password lists, banking information, kids' school transcripts, medical records, or personal photos is generally a bad idea. It could send the wrong signal to your employer.
Kerr also said that your supervisors may be concerned about you consuming valuable storage space and putting the device at risk for viruses.
Plus, if you lose your job, you could also lose your information forever.
"If you're ever let go from a company, standard policy is to have you leave immediately," Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad," told Business Insider. "You probably won't have the time to remove files that should have never been on your work computer in the first place."
See 10 things you should avoid saying at work:
Nicolai said that there's only one thing worse than saving personal photos on your work computer — saving nude personal photos on your work computer.
Make sure your work device remains free of any sort of inappropriate material.
"It may seem obvious, but stories abound over employees being caught storing porn on their work computers, completely oblivious to the fact that their IT department was fully aware," Kerr said.
Video or computer games
There's no good reason for most people to have video or computer games downloaded onto their work computer. That will just send your boss the wrong message, according to Kerr.
Plus, in some cases, you could open up your device for spyware or viruses.
Anything related to your side job
Keep your side hustle information stored on your personal devices, not your work computer.
"If you are moonlighting and are concerned about your employer finding out, then obviously you should avoid storing anything connected to another job of your main work computer," Kerr said. "I know of one situation where an employee accidentally sent the wrong attachment to her boss, a contract with a similar name she was working on at her second job."
Anything revealing questionable humor
If a joke or video is too offensive to share in the office, it's definitely not a good idea to store it on your work computer.
"More and more companies are concerned about legal issues related to workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, so any humor that might be deemed offensive could land you in hot water," Kerr said. "Even just saving offensive emails that contain racial or sexual humor has, in some cases, been used to justify disciplinary action with some employees."
Anything deemed highly confidential by the company that you aren't storing in a safe manner (or authorized to even have access to)
"Again, it may sound obvious, but there are countless stories of even high-level politicians getting into hot water or even losing their jobs because they were careless with confidential or classified information," Kerr said. "But it can happen at any level of an organization."
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