It is a decision that may seem obvious. You have a new job and they just gave you a brand new ThinkPad. Perfect, do you think to yourself. It’s time I got rid of it 10-year MacBook Air.
I was here. Surveys have shown that more than half of workers use work-supplied devices for personal tasks, whether that is sending personal messages, shopping online, accessing social media or to read the news. The prospect of using your work laptop as your only laptop – not just for work, but also for Netflixing, group messaging, reading fan fiction, paying bills, and emailing recipes to your mother – is understandably tempting, especially for people who work from home. Keeping work and personal tasks in one place can seem like an easy way to make your life easier, and it can save you space on your desk. Above all, it may seem like a good cost saving measure.
But I’m here to bring bad news: don’t do this. Please, I’m begging you, don’t do this.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are using a business laptop, you should assume that the IT department can see what you are doing. Companies have all kinds of tools to monitor their employees’ devices: keyloggers, biometric tracking, geolocation, web browsing and social media behavior tracking software. More than half use some sort of surveillance technique, and their use has become more popular throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, of course, your business can see what you’re doing in company-run programs like Slack and G-Suite Enterprise. Your novel that you wrote at night? Do your Slack messages complain about your boss to your colleagues? He can see it all. Even if you have separate personal accounts for these services, it is still more likely that you will mix them up if you are signed in to both on the same computer.
“If you’re using a business laptop, you have to assume that your IT department can see it all,” says Ryan Toohil, who has been in IT for 20 years and is currently CTO of Aura, a digital security company. “It’s the company’s laptop. They own it. It’s written into a corporate IT product where they can track where you go on the Internet. Toohil pointed out that not all IT departments regularly search their employees’ web history, but there is always a risk that they will.
It is not only your activity that your coworkers could see, they could also have access to anything you download. Uploading personal photos or text messages to your work device to keep them safe might seem harmless – you’ll just erase them before putting them back, right? But some companies (like Apple) won’t allow you to erase your device before handing it over, no matter how personal the content is. Even if your employer does not have such a policy, there is still a possibility that you will be fired or fired in the short term, or that your business will collapse without warning.
In these cases, you may have time to remove your personal files from your laptop before you return it, but depending on the circumstances of your termination, you may be excluded before you have a chance. “In most companies, as soon as you are fired, it usually triggers an automated process that deactivates your access,” explains Toohil.
Even if you are leaving your business with a lot of notice, moving a bunch of things off your work device in the last few days of your tenure could raise the IT department’s eyebrows – who, remember, can see everything you do on-site. this device. “Let’s say you’re going to work for a competitor,” Toohil says. “They’re going to go through this huge audit trail, see, wow, you moved a bunch of data from that laptop the week before you left.” And that opens up a huge responsibility for you personally. At a minimum, you are going to spend time explaining what you were doing. In the worst case, you have taken company information.
And if things go wrong, the list of embarrassing possibilities is endless: do you really want to be that woman, who received a text about pooping on her computer while sharing her screen with executives? Or that employee, who accidentally posted fetish porn in a company-wide group chat? Or this guy, who invited his current boss to join his job interview on Zoom? If you mix work and fun on one device, one wrong attachment or one incorrect copy / paste can lead to scenarios that are not only embarrassing but also damage your relationships with your colleagues and even compromise your work.
I know using your business laptop as a home laptop can seem like a decent saving measure, especially if you’re among the 51% of U.S. employees who work from home at least some of the time. But here’s the good news: A personal laptop doesn’t have to cost a lot, especially if you just plan on using it for emailing, Netflix, and tweeting. Some of the best laptops you can buy are regularly available for under $ 1,000 – and if you’re open to Chrome OS, some of the best Chromebooks cost under $ 400. I’ve tested all of these devices myself, including the $ 299 Lenovo Chromebook Duet and the $ 389.99 Asus Chromebook Detachable, and I would have no problem using them as my primary personal device. Even a $ 329.99 iPad can do most things on a laptop, especially if you buy a keyboard case. Budget laptops have come a long way, and these devices are fast and very well designed.
Otherwise, what you are looking for in a personal laptop will depend on your price range and what features you want. This is actually a big advantage of a personal device: you can tailor the product to your needs and preferences in ways that an IT department may not be able to support. You can check out specs like processor (an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 should be the most you need for web browsing and Netflix), screen resolution (go for 1080p unless you are very particular), storage, memory, and weight (you can get affordable laptops as light as two pounds) – and you can find the combination that suits your lifestyle.
Plus, you can get some benefits from personal laptops that you probably won’t see in a regular office laptop. Want to try some games? Get something with a GPU. Are you an artist? Get something with a stylus. Want a tablet to keep your piano music? Get something with a removable screen. Do you like pretty lights? Get something with an RGB keyboard. You can cover the product with all the skins, stickers, and decorations you want, and you can even get something that looks totally ridiculous if that’s your whim. It’s your laptop – you are the boss!
I’ll end on a personal note: many remote employees have difficulty logging out. A majority believe that their personal and professional lives are more mixed up than they would be with access to the office. Now that my work and my hobbies are in the same room, with no commute between them, it’s harder to ignore the nagging idea that I should be working – that even if I’m not on the clock, I could do more.
From experience, a personal laptop can help. I’m less tempted to check my work email if I’m not logged into it on my computer. And there’s a slight sense of freedom knowing that Slack notifications won’t show up while I’m watching. Succession because Slack is not installed on my Succession-monitoring device. A personal laptop is an investment, not only in your safety, but also in your sanity. You should get one.
Photograph by Monica Chin / The Verge