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Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Everything you do on your office PC or laptop during work time is not only accessible to IT, but indeed technically on work time.

ONLINE PRIVACY IS back in the news again and this time it has made big headlines. Hillary Clinton was found to have used a private email account recently and has since handed over 50,000 pages worth of emails to the state.

It may take a few years to go through them all before they can be made available to the public but in the meantime it has raised a few good questions as to just how savvy we are when it comes to blurring the lines between work and home emails.

In the US, over 35% of employees who are fired have the reason of excessive or inappropriate email usage as a contributing factor. And if reports are correct that we spend approximately 70% of our time in work or on our phones and laptops, would that not make sense then to use our work emails more?

Quick personal emails 

The problem is that we seem to be using our Gmails and Yahoo’s much less and prefer to ping off a quick email to our friend to say we’re running late for that coffee or the landlord to advise of a leaky tap that needs to be fixed.

Surely that’s not “excessive”?

But even if you don’t use your emails and send a message via Facebook chat instead, it’s actually just as dangerous because everything you do on your office PC or laptop during work time is not only accessible to IT, but indeed technically on work time and therefore legally owned by your company.

And therefore your employer has every right to question every correspondence you send. Or are we just getting very George Orwell all of a sudden?

Most companies require employees to sign an IT disclosure form; how many of us read it before we sign is debatable but I’m willing to take a bet that it’s not many. Once you sign that form, you are agreeing to hand over pretty much your entire digital identity while at work to your employer. And by default, your friends and colleagues details and identities.

That figure of 70% is actually skewed as well – if your boss doesn’t like you and plans to get rid of you, it would be very easy to use excessive or inappropriate email use as a reason to fire you whereas you may see your correspondence as normal and perfectly within the work remit.

Inappropriate doesn’t mean dodgy emails to colleagues about sensitive subjects or gossip about your boss though – this can also mean sending your landlord an email about that tap.

Our judgement is blurred

Which brings us back to square one – our judgment is being blurred more and more by the age of technology and considering we are online virtually 24/7, it stands to reason we’ll condense our online life to make things easier?

You must also remember that anything you do online, whether on the internet or on your own work network, can never be fully deleted. You will never be able to outsmart the IT guy; they don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. They don’t discriminate, but with the invention of big data, it’s very easy for companies to track what you do during your workday.

The key point to keep remembering is – if you don’t want your employer to have access to your personal online presence, don’t do it at work, do a Hillary.

Limit your social life to your home PC or private phone and remember that perhaps it’s time to look at whether you’re really doing your job well if you find yourself spending more time chatting online than doing work.

Finally, if you decide to do a Hillary and use your personal email for work, you’re opening up a whole new can of worms.

Marina Morrissey is a professional recruiter and the Operations Manager of Sigmar Managed Services at Sigmar Recruitment, one of Ireland’s leading recruitment agencies. You can find out more here

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