Save your weird internet search habits for your personal computer.
You don’t want to become an office cautionary tale — that person who got fired because they were busted Googling something inappropriate during an all-hands meeting.
When you’re on your work computer, your employers can track pretty much everything you do.
“Any personal data or behavior done on any work device can and is collected by your employer,” said management expert Andrew Wittman. “Be mindful of every search, click, and email sent, as well as any personal data or behavior, including searches, shopping, social media, emails, and websites visited.”
And deleting your history won’t save you, in most cases.
“Never assume that clearing the history log is enough to sweep away any evidence of where you’ve been spending your time on the internet,” said Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage.” “Most IT departments are still able to monitor computer use and a very aware of searches that might be deemed highly questionable.”
With that in mind, here are some searches you should definitely steer clear of on your job-related devices:
Pornography or other inappropriate websites
This one should be a no-brainer, but that doesn’t deter some people.
“From school teachers on school-issued laptops to politicians, this issue crops up continually in the media,” Kerr said. “A highly-publicized report revealed there were more than 300,000 searches for porn from with the parliament offices of Great Britain. A City of Baltimore employee was fired for watching porn for 39 hours at work, including one day where he watched over six hours during an eight-hour shift. And if you aren’t fired, you will, at the very least, end up in a potentially embarrassing situation.”
Highly classified information within your own company
“If you know there are things that are off limits for a reason, don’t try and access them on your own,” Kerr said. “Without question your IT department will be aware of every attempt you’ve made to gain access into a secured area.”
Websites related to your side hustle
If you’re juggling a side job, resist the temptation of letting that bleed into your nine-to-five.
“If you are moonlighting at a second job or running a side business on your own, be exceedingly careful searching for sites that will be obviously out of the normal scope of your work duties,” Kerr said. “Numerous employees have been fired when they’ve been caught running their own business while on someone else’s dime, and your internet activities will be one of the biggest red flags available to employers.”
Job search sites, particularly connected to a major competitor
Never use your work computer to look for a new job. Even if you’re super unhappy in your current role, you’ll be taking a serious risk.
“Everything you do on your work computer could be secretly observed and recorded by your employer and looking for another job could immediately terminate your current one,” said Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of “Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad.
Your troubles could also extend beyond getting fired.
“If you are caught excessively searching for other employment, it will raise a red flag,” Kerr said. “If you are caught looking at a competitor’s job offerings it may raise a burning red flag, with issues over security, confidentiality, and non-compete agreements.”
Anything pertaining to dating and relationships
Résumé Writers’ Ink founder and career expert Tina Nicolai said that it’s best to avoid splashing your love life across your work computer’s search history.
That means avoiding searches that have anything to do with “… pick-ups, online dating and corresponding … in short, anything personal.”
Websites related to planning parties, vacations, or weddings
Nicolai added that your employer doesn’t want to see that you’re spending time planning purely personal activities.
So researching anything involving weddings, parties, or vacations is out. She said that you also probably want to steer clear of sites like Pinterest or services that help you send out invitations.
Excessive searching in general is probably a bad idea
Just remember that you’re not getting paid to surf the web.
“Consider the length of time and frequency of searches as well,” Kerr said. “Few employers will be concerned over an employee taking a quick look at last night’s sports’ scores or checking in on how the stock market is doing. But when an employer finds out you’ve spent the better part of your day researching your next vacation, you may find yourself in the hot seat.”
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