It's tempting to do these things on your work computer—especially, say, during your lunch break—but just don't.

By Kate Villa
Updated April 03, 2018
filadendron/Getty Images

The name says it all: Work computers are for work, though sometimes the lines blur just a little bit, and that can get you into hot water. Jena Booher (M.S. MHC; ACC) is the founder and CEO of Babies On The Brain, a management consulting company. She works with CEOs to bring women (particularly mothers) and diversity into the workplace. Booher took a moment to help clarify what you should never be doing on a work computer.

filadendron/Getty Images


It may seem harmless to keep a few documents of your own saved to your work desktop (just in case you have a life-changing brain blast for the personal project you’re working on), but just don’t do it. “At the end of the day, the company owns the content that’s on the computer,” says Booher. This means that legally, you may come across serious issues if that oh-so-boring personal file ever becomes the basis for a new company you start or a product you design.

Bottom line: Keep a notebook for personal ideas at work, not a digital document.


This seems obvious, especially since people are fired all the time for inappropriate searches, but there’s one thing you may not realize. In larger companies, there are whole teams dedicated to monitoring employees’ page visits and they flag anything that seems inappropriate. That all goes directly to the top. “It doesn’t take insane software to have websites flagged to HR with your name saying that you’re looking at this and it’s inappropriate,” explains Booher.

Bottom line: Your name is on every page you visit.


We all love a good Slack channel convo or dishing on what’s going on with those two love-birds in sales, but make sure to remember that everything you say is logged—so keep it all professional.

Bottom line: Work chat is for work only.


Days may get slightly mundane and you may be tempted to just peek at that cute sweater you’ve had your eye on. Just remember that every moment you’re at work, you’re being paid to work. If your boss sees some cute shoes on your screen, there may be issues further down the road.

Bottom line: Online shopping should be done on your own time.


Personal email is dicey when it comes to work computers. You can do your best to keep your activity innocuous, but you don’t know what a friend might send you. It might be something inappropriate for work (that could open automatically!) or a virus that could infect the entire office.

Bottom line: Your personal email should stay personal.


This is another one that should be obvious, but people do it. If you’re restless at work, job search on your own time on a personal computer. This can get especially dicey when you’re working in an open floor plan office and it just isn’t worth the difficult conversation you might need to have if someone peeks over your shoulder at the wrong time.

Bottom line: Job searching should be done on your own personal time.