Work Computers Are For Work: 3 Reasons Why You Need to Avoid Leisure Activities on Company Devices

Playing games on work computer

Many of us are assigned computers and other devices from our office. It’s tempting to make that device our only device and consider it a perk of the job. While that might be the case, there are risks involved that should make you think twice. Do you want to be responsible for damaging your company resources? Do you really want to explain to your superior how exactly your computer ended up like that? Don’t put your work resources at extra risk.

The Internet In General Is Already Dangerous

Accessing resources on the internet is already risky business. Every time you click a link or enter a new web address, you are taking a risk. While these risks are generally small, they add up the more you use your devices. It’s like playing a lottery that you don’t want to win. A device used 10 hours a day is more likely to be compromised by its user than one that is only used for 6 hours.

Just doing non-work activities a couple of hours a day on your work device may be making it 50% more likely to have a problem that is going to require assistance from your company. Both you and your company want the devices they provided you to be there to help you perform your duties. While it would be overkill to completely bar employees from personal uses, it should be here and there, not a measurable proportion of the device’s total use time.

Some Activities Are Riskier Than Others

With limited exception, in most workplaces, you won’t spend hours playing games, interacting on social media, or watching movies, but all of these activities are how people entertain themselves using technology, and they are also among the riskiest.

Software can do just about anything on a device; that’s why it’s such a core part of the technology we use. Useful software can help us do our jobs, help us plan our finances, and help us communicate, among many, many other uses. But in order to do these things we have to give it wide-ranging access on our devices. A photo editor can’t edit your photos without having access to them for example. Because of this, we have to be extremely discerning about the software we allow to run on our devices.

Leisure activities have a built-in incentive to throw caution to the wind. Someone wants to play that free game, or watch that movie; they might be so incentivized that they pay little attention to the risks they’re taking on and could be downloading ransomware to the device.

While it’s bad enough to damage the device, they might also be damaging a shared resource like a network drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, or other shared storage. Any damaged files will show whose account was the last one to alter it. It’s not only an embarrassing event, but it damages productivity. If the company doesn’t have a proper resiliency plan in place, it could lead to lost data.

Many sites that facilitate leisure activities are targeted by malicious actors. While it’s possible that the site you use to look up pricing to do your work could be targeted, it’s a lot less likely than that free game website you might frequent. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use these sites, but maybe you shouldn’t put your company’s resources at risk to do so.

Electronics Aren’t That Expensive

Having a separate device for leisure shouldn’t be prevented by cost. The riskiest activities on the internet, apart from high-end gaming, don’t require much out of your device. The potential for damage to your workplace should be considered when you decide to visit social media or play games on your work devices. It’s likely worth the expense to buy another device to never have to explain to IT support the sequence of events that led to your devices being compromised.

Our Take

There’s a balance in all situations. In extreme cases, users should be completely barred from non-work uses, but in most, it would be heavy-handed to completely eliminate it. Users checking sports scores, reading news articles, or responding to messages here and there is generally thought to be good for morale. But, heavy personal use should be discouraged to limit the opportunity for being compromised.

It would be a good idea for your organization to establish an acceptable use policy so that there’s no ambiguity about what is and isn’t allowed. It would further allow your company to dictate activities it won’t tolerate on its equipment. With the higher levels of scrutiny being put on people’s actions online, allowing your staff to use your devices completely unchecked might put your business in a spotlight it never wanted to be in.

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