5 things that are actually okay to search for on your work computer

We all look up weird stuff on the internet from time to time.

But that's a habit we should forego at our work computers. An inappropriate or suspicious internet search history could mean getting reprimanded or even fired.

That being said, not everything is off-limits when it comes to surfing the web on your work computer.

In fact, there are some surprising searches that are just fine, for the most part.

The important caveat to all this is that, if you're going to search for something that might raise a red flag, make sure your boss is okay with it. Otherwise, there's always a possibility you could get called out later.

Here are a few searches that you likely won't get busted for:

Anything that will help you be a better employee

Taking a moment during your workday to attempt to improve your career habits or increase your knowledge is a good thing.

That's why productivity-boosting apps, news stories related to your industry, and even career-oriented articles (like the one you're reading right at this moment) are all usually fine to look up on your work computer.

Susan Joyce, owner and operator of job search site Job-Hunt.org, added that searches that "help you perform your job better" are justified.

She said that even things like short exercise videos to do at your desk or music to listen to while you work are fine.

"It is arguable this might not be deemed as 'work,' but would be considered acceptable if it allowed an employee to remain engaged and productive," Joyce said.

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Shopping — within certain boundaries

Résumé Writers' Ink founder and career expert Tina Nicolai told Business Insider that it's fine to shop till you drop on your work computer, as long as you're searching for work-related gifts or prizes.

"Shopping for personal items is not acceptable, so always be sure to keep business shopping separate from personal," she said.

Anything involving high-priority life decisions

Most of the time, you'll need to gauge your office environment before tackling any personal matters on your work computer. Do you ever notice other people taking the time to check their bank balances or search for apartments? Or is that something that would get a coworker called out?

David Lewis, CEO and founder of human resources consulting firm OperationsInc, told Business Insider that it's usually not worth risking your job over a Google search.

"If you must use your office equipment then when you do this — ideally during scheduled breaks or after or before work hours — is as critical as what you search," he said.

He added that searching for a new house, a babysitter, college courses, or other important life necessities is probably acceptable in most work environments.

Fun activities — if they're for the whole office

Joyce said that searching for "happy hour locations, morale boosting exercises, or any other engaging activities you could do with coworkers" is all fine, even if it involves looking up fun things like karaoke bars or laser tag locations.

Competitors' sites

"There are project specific circumstances when internet searching may be flagged as questionable but, in reality, support work efforts," Joyce said. "For example, searching for competitive analysis for a contract proposal or product or service development project: An employee might search the competitors' websites for job titles and other information, like technology, process name, or something very specific. If an employer found those searches, they may assume an employee is searching for new jobs on company time and label them as a 'flight risk.' To be safe, it is always best to be clear about what searches are acceptable per company policy."

Or, if you're worried that you'll get in trouble, check in with your boss before surfing the web.

More from Business Insider:
7 smart shortcuts to use in your work email
11 things never to send over work email
7 phrases never to type in your work email

SEE ALSO: 6 things you should never store on your work computer

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