For many people, a shiny new laptop is a welcome perk of the job. Sleek, fast and desirable, you can work at home, on the road or even in the local coffee shop.

And during lockdown, work laptops were essential to keeping business running and our colleagues and friends connected. But with little else to do, professional and personal lives quickly began to bleed into each other. More and more, we began to use our work computers for personal tasks.

After all, it makes sense to use one device, right?

Your work laptop is just on loan

Most employers offer some degree of flexibility when it comes to issuing laptops. They expect you to use them for personal activities occasionally – very few will have a problem if you do your online grocery shopping on a Sunday night.

But at the same time, this is a work device for work; it is owned and paid for by your employer and they expect you to focus on work-related activities. Because of this, more than half of businesses carefully monitor how laptops are being used.

Download Panda FREE VPN

Your employer is watching you

Monitoring is done using tools that work in a very similar way to spyware. They can record keystrokes, watch what is happening on screen, download files and add or remove software remotely.

This means that they can also see any sensitive photos, documents or instant messages you have saved. If they were to be accidentally exposed at work, you could lose your job – or be extremely embarrassed in front of your colleagues.

You should always assume that your personal activity is being monitored and it could be seen by others.

I’ll just wipe my personal data

Even if your laptop is not being monitored, your employer can also ask you to return it at any moment. If that happens, you will have no time to remove your personal content, you will be sending everything back to the IT department – and that could land you into trouble.

This is particularly true when you leave a job – your login details are typically frozen within minutes to prevent theft of corporate data or malicious damage. Locked out of the laptop, you have no way to get your files back.

Always use your own device

Buying your own laptop feels expensive and unnecessary – but it will save a lot of trouble in the long term. Not only will you better protect your privacy, but you also don’t have to worry about losing access to your data or having personal messages and emails appear in your work applications.

On the plus side, buying a laptop or tablet doesn’t have to be expensive – there are dozens of suitable devices available. But maintaining your privacy and keeping hold of your personal data is invaluable – far safer than relying on a computer that doesn’t actually belong to you.