Dos And Don’ts For Your Work Computer


After sitting at your work computer for a couple of hours typing away, it is easy to get distracted, especially when you have the endless possibilities of the internet before you.

There are two important things that you have to remember when you sit down at your work computer:

  1. The computer is not yours. The computer has been built by the company’s IT staff and has probably been taken apart and put back together many times and used by many people.
  2. At work, you have limited privacy.


  • Instant messaging – Do not stay logged into instant messaging programs during working hours. It can be very distracting and the last thing you need is for a conversation with your friend to pop up when your supervisor comes by.
  • Internet browsing – Leave unrelated Internet surfing for lunch hours; checking out a friend’s link can lead to hours of wasted time. Also remember that the IT staff has full access to your computer and some work places have programs that monitor your Internet browsing history. Avoid going to inappropriate websites and make sure you abide by your organization’s Internet usage policies, if they exist.
  • Web filters – The web filters are there for a reason; don’t try to outsmart them. If the computer gets a virus, you should always tell the truth about what happened.
  • Take home files – There may be files that you work with which you may not be allowed to take home, such as software that has been developed by the company or files that contain private information. Make sure to ask your supervisor before taking any files out of your work environment.

So what can you do?

  • Back up your files – There is nothing worse than losing months of work. Remember to back up your work files on your organization’s network or on a USB or flash drive.
  • Keep it organized – Remember that your computer and your work station is a reflection of the type of employee you are, so keep your computer and the area around it clean.
  • Personalize – You are allowed to personalize your computer a little, especially since you may be sitting there for several hours a day.

Cleaning up

At the end of your work term, don’t forget to clean up your computer, since it’s very likely that someone else will be using it soon.

  • Organize files – Any files or resources you used or created should be named properly and put on the company’s network or given to your supervisor. This way there is a record of everything you’ve completed and the job can be continued by someone else if needed. It is also handy if you ever need to ask your supervisor for a recommendation as they can easily look back on the work you’ve done.
  • Delete cookies and passwords – Remove any passwords you put on your computer or have saved in your browser, such as email and social networking passwords.
  • Uninstall programs – Remove any programs that you may have installed that would not be useful to the next user of your computer.

When you sit down at your work computer, remember that just because it feels like yours, doesn’t mean it is. Keeping these things in mind can help you make the most of your time at work and leave a better impression when you leave.

Photo credit: Jakob Lodwick by Zach Klein on Flickr
About the author

Nilanthy Balendra is a final year Electrical and Biomedical Engineering student at McMaster University. She has completed research internships at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto in the field of cancer research. She hopes to complete her degree and pursue a career in medical research. She is also the co-president of the McMaster Women in Engineering society and hopes to continue to spread awareness about engineering as a potential career option for young girls after graduation.