Use com­pany tech for this, not that

Los Angeles Times - - JOBS -

T ech­nol­ogy has blurred the lines be­tween work and our per­sonal lives, with cell phones that are ca­pa­ble of stay­ing “al­ways con­nected” and “al­ways work­ing.” Maybe that’s why there’s al­ways the ad­di­tional temp­ta­tion to use tech­nol­ogy for per­sonal en­ter­tain­ment, like brows­ing so­cial me­dia or us­ing your own email or bank­ing in­for­ma­tion while on the clock.

You’re sure HR would have some­thing to say about your use of com­pany tech­nol­ogy, but are there re­ally any risks to play­ing Sims on your com­puter at lunch? Does it re­ally mat­ter if you pay your credit card bill on­line be­tween client phone calls?

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent LawInfo ar­ti­cle on com­pany tech­nol­ogy, “While many em­ploy­ers have de­vel­oped writ­ten poli­cies re­gard­ing com­puter us­age by em­ploy­ees that may give some guid­ance in this area, em­ploy­ers gen­er­ally have the dis­cre­tion to mon­i­tor and re­strict em­ploy­ees’ per­sonal com­puter us­age as they see fit. As a re­sult, you may be sub­ject to dis­ci­pline, or even dis­charge, as an em­ployee if you vi­o­late your em­ployer’s poli­cies re­gard­ing per­sonal com­puter us­age.”

Con­sult your em­ployee man­ual or speak to your HR or IT depart­ment about your com­pany’s spe­cific rules for proper use of com­pany tech­nol­ogy, but here are some gen­eral guide­lines which might help you stay un­der the radar:

In­ter­net brows­ing

If In­ter­net ac­cess tem­po­rar­ily goes down at your com­pany, plenty of peo­ple will joke that there’s no way they can com­plete their work. It’s true that the In­ter­net plays a cen­tral role in many peo­ple’s jobs to­day, but it’s also true that the In­ter­net helps pass the time be­tween tasks at work.

And while you may rely on celebrity gos­sip sites and sports up­dates to get you through the day, as­sume that your em­ployer is watch­ing ev­ery­thing you ac­cess—and use your good judg­ment be­fore ex­plor­ing all of the In­ter­net at your desk. “Em­ploy­ers gen­er­ally can track em­ploy­ees’ In­ter­net us­age, in terms of time spent on­line, web­sites vis­ited, and en­gage­ment in other on­line ac­tiv­i­ties,” ac­cord­ing to LawInfo. “An em­ployer also may re­strict an em­ployee’s ac­cess to the In­ter­net or ac­cess to cer­tain web­sites, or pro­hibit per­sonal us­age of work­place com­put­ers al­to­gether.”

In­stant mes­sag­ing and chat­ting

Many in­stant mes­sen­gers have an “off the record” set­ting that pre­vents the pro­gram from sav­ing any record of the con­ver­sa­tion. But don’t think that will stop em­ploy­ers from see­ing your con­ver­sa­tion with an­other co-worker about your an­noy­ing manager’s meet­ing re­quests. LawInfo writes that “even if your em­ployer per­mits you to use your com­puter for your per­sonal mat­ters, you should have no ex­pec­ta­tion of pri­vacy as to the con­tents of your com­puter or your email ac­cessed via that com­puter. Gen­er­ally, an em­ployer has the right to mon­i­tor your com­puter us­age, whether it is for busi­ness or per­sonal pur­poses, in­clud­ing your email, any web­sites that you fre­quent, chat his­tory, and any other per­sonal in­for­ma­tion stored on your com­puter.” If you’re ac­cess­ing per­sonal ma­te­ri­als from a work de­vice, there’s likely a way for your em­ployer to view those ma­te­ri­als, too.

Email

Com­pany emails shouldn’t be used for per­sonal use, and they cer­tainly shouldn’t be used in any job search­ing ca­pac­ity. This may seem like ba­sic in­for­ma­tion, but it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand the logic be­hind mon­i­tor­ing your work email. LawInfo ex­plains that em­ploy­ers are gen­er­ally free to mon­i­tor and read em­ploy­ees’ email mes­sages, with no re­stric­tions. “The the­ory in this sit­u­a­tion is that emails sent us­ing a work­place com­puter are the prop­erty of the em­ployer, re­gard­less of whether the sender or re­cip­i­ent of the email mes­sage in­tended to keep its con­tents pri­vate. Whether an em­ployer is mon­i­tor­ing email mes­sages to and from em­ploy­ees in or­der to en­sure that em­ploy­ees are pro­duc­tive, to guar­an­tee that em­ploy­ees are not dis­clos­ing con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion, or sim­ply to de­crease the pos­si­bil­ity of any em­ployee mis­con­duct or wrong­do­ing, em­ploy­ers typ­i­cally are well within their rights to mon­i­tor em­ployee email.”

So­cial me­dia

You’ve heard sto­ries of em­ploy­ees get­ting fired over so­cial me­dia rants about their em­ployer, but what about free speech? Ac­cord­ing to LawInfo, “While neg­a­tive post­ings about your em­ployer may be legal and per­mis­si­ble un­der the First Amend­ment, your em­ployer may be able to dis­ci­pline and even dis­charge you if you are openly crit­i­cal about your em­ployer. Many states con­sider most em­ploy­ees to be at will, which means that you can be dis­charged for any rea­son other than an il­le­gally dis­crim­i­na­tory rea­son. An­other rea­son for dis­ci­pline or dis­charge by your em­ployer in this sit­u­a­tion is if you di­vulge con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion from your work­place in your web page or blog. If an em­ployer finds that you have vi­o­lated a stated work­place pol­icy re­gard­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity of in­for­ma­tion, you are likely to be sub­ject to dis­ci­pline or dis­charge.”

It may seem like you can’t re­ally use your work com­puter for any­thing other than work. Keep­ing your work and per­sonal de­vices sep­a­rate will most likely keep your work life and per­sonal mat­ters sep­a­rate, all while pre­vent­ing you from over­shar­ing to the com­pany, and pre­vent­ing the com­pany from los­ing im­por­tant busi­ness in­for­ma­tion or se­cu­rity.

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