It’s so easy to mix business and pleasure while working from home. On the one hand, I’m sending out all these important, professional-sounding emails. On the other, I’m not wearing pants. The boundaries seem impossible to define. While the IT people at the company I work for are surely tech geniuses, I’m pretty confident that they don’t know about my lack of pants. But what about my other unprofessional indiscretions? Can they see how many of us are streaming Netflix on the clock, or how many hours you spent scouring the internet for bidet reviews — or worse — from your work computer?
According to Raffi Bederian, manager of IT Operations at Dollar Shave Club, the answer is: Sorta. But, as I’m sure you irresponsible scammers are pleased to know, your IT people don’t really care. “Every industry is different, and some industries like finance have very strict guidelines,” he says. “Many companies in the financial sector will restrict people’s access and monitor their network traffic. We’re more lenient. From the monitoring standpoint, we focus on security. For example, if you’re going to access a VPN, we’ll get an alert to assess if it’s suspicious activity. In regards to Facebook or social media, we don’t see any of that data. Seeing that everyone is on Netflix… there’s no value. We don’t care. We can see it, but there’s no insight into it.”
Basically, most IT departments have bigger fish to fry. Their job is less to monitor what you’re doing, and more to monitor what outsiders might be trying to do to access company data and private information. Further, if your company really didn’t want you going on Twitter during work hours, they’d be able to stop you. “Banks, they monitor all your traffic. Schools, they do the same thing. But you’ll know what websites they’re blocking you from,” says Bederian.
That said, while the IT department might not be monitoring what you do on your work laptop all day, that doesn’t mean they can’t. Per the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, your employer must receive your consent to monitor you online. You might have signed a document regarding this when you first got hired, and unfortunately, if you’re using workplace equipment, you waive these rights. So, maybe save the freaky Pornhub searches for your personal computer.
It should also be noted that if your company uses Google or Slack, they can read any communications sent through them. According to Bederian, this is mostly used for security purposes, as well, and is set up to notify the IT department of suspicious activity. Technically, though, they have the ability to read whatever you send or receive if needed. Odds are, they aren’t going to snitch that you said something bitchy about a coworker via email, but it’s better to act under the assumption that they could.
Actually, that should probably be your go-to attitude for anything you might do on your work computer. Again, IT is likely more focused on preventing you from downloading malware that leaks everyone’s personal information and bankrupts the company in a massive lawsuit, but if you’re worried about getting caught playing online poker all day as opposed to working, you might want to consider gambling with a personal device instead.