We live in a modern world where computers are used in pretty much any business. If you're working, chances are more than likely that you're working in front of a PC.
But computers also offer temptations of their own that can get you into serious trouble – a bit like those solid fudge bars on the office trolley that tempt you every morning. But you are more likely to be able to hide those extra kilos than porn site addresses in your history file.
It’s simple. Your work computer exists for work, and that’s that. Using this machine for personal pleasure can land you in serious trouble with the powers that be. In fact, it could cost you your job more quickly than you can say "CD-ROM."
Here’s how to avoid the most important piece of hardware in your life turning on you.
Download if you dare
Just because you recently had ADSL installed at home, and you’ve been downloading movies and music in demon-like fashion all night long, doesn’t mean you can do the same thing at work.
Most companies will have some sort of data transfer manager, and this person will alert the bosses to any large transfers happening on the server.
That means while you might be getting the latest episodes of South Park during your lunch hour, you could be packing your bags and heading home before the traffic even picks up.
Remember that anything you get off the internet is downloaded. This includes MP3s, streaming videos, music or radio, and even pictures.
Downloading pornography is a definite one-way ticket to a new job. Just because no one is around, doesn’t mean the server isn’t watching.
Downloading porn will not only waste your companies’ valuable bandwidth, but will also put the server at risk of contracting a serious virus or worm that could put the company out of action for weeks. Expect an instant dismissal.
Downloading anything over 10mb will probably raise suspicion, so rather wait to get home before you ‘save target as’.
Email traffic is also very often monitored, and a high exchange of personal email in your inbox could land you in hot water.
At work, your inbox has been set up for you to receive and send email that is work- related only – not to send your colleague a dirty slideshow, or a joke chain mail you just received from your friend in London.
Remember too, that some companies may enforce the right to read employee email. Therefore, writing anything nasty about your boss or fellow colleagues could backfire horribly, and result in some unwanted disciplinary action.
Avoid jokes or chain mails containing racist, unethical or derogatory content. You might find it hilarious, but your colleague just might find it offensive, and forward it to your boss with the subject line, ‘Guess who sent me this?’
Never leave your workstation without locking it or turning it off. Leaving your email open could lead to a sabotage of your career by someone forwarding your boss a particularly nasty email directly from your PC.
Keeping it hush-hush
Confidential documents that make their way to your inbox are your responsibility. Try keeping these documents in a separate folder, and don’t keep them in your inbox if you don’t need them anymore.
Accidentally sending confidential documents to your Auntie in Brakpan won’t bode well with the boss.
If you are going to save important documents and information, rather put it onto disk, and make sure that you always keep the disk in a safe place.
If you are travelling with the information – whether it be on your laptop or DVD – make backups at home in case of damage or loss.
Try to keep business-related emails and content production to the office. It might be great to chomp down a juicy T-bone and work on the year-end budget results at the same time, but you never know who could be peering over your shoulder, absorbing important and confidential company information.
Change the password on your work PC and your laptop regularly. This will further prevent any unwanted visitors penetrating your most confidential files, and possibly jeopardising your career.
Time is money
You may tell everyone that all the money you have is hard-earned, but do you really work at work, or do you play?
If you spend your time playing solitaire or poker, or surfing the web to find your next set of wheels, you are wasting your companies’ time and money This could be another reason for dismissal.
Be careful how much time you waste on personal content like emails. You could end up giving your boss a bad impression of your work ethic. This will not get you any closer to that promotion you so desperately need.
Just because you have free access to the web, doesn’t mean you can visit any site you want. Try to keep non-work related browsing to a minimum, and avoid any ‘Career’ sites.
If your boss catches you looking for a new job, he may just help you take the first step by showing you the door.
(Warren Vonk, November 2005)
(Picture: man working on laptop from Shutterstock)