Workplace Computer Use – Keeping it Professional

When we’re at work, we need to be professional. Even in a casual or laid-back workplace, it’s important to observe some basic rules of etiquette. While this is true in all areas of your job and interactions with coworkers, it is especially important to be professional and courteous in your computer use. Here are some of the basic rules to keep in mind:

Keep the volume down. When you’re working in a cubicle or an open-concept office, your coworkers can hear you. When you’re listening to music, watching a training video, or participating in a web conference, remember that not all of your coworkers will want to participate with you. Utilizing headphones will keep your noise from polluting the whole office environment.

Be respectful of shared spaces. When you leave for the day, or anytime you’ll be away from your desk for any length of time, be sure to logoff your computer. Don’t save anything personal, confidential, or potentially offensive in shared-access folders.

Keep email messages professional. All of your company’s emails are archived. Not only is it unprofessional to send and receive personal emails at work, it’s never a good idea to send or receive anything you wouldn’t want your boss reading. The tone of your business emails should always be professional and polished. Emails are often used in investigations, so assume that everything you send may eventually be read by someone outside the company.

Re-think your wallpaper and screensavers. Make sure that the images you use on your computer are appropriate for the workplace. This means avoiding anything that is potentially offensive, but it’s also a good idea not to use anything too personal. While you may have had a great time on your Hawaiian vacation, your coworkers don’t need to see scrolling photos of you and your girlfriend in your swimsuits on the beach every time your screen saver kicks on. To play it safe, use the images that come pre-loaded with your operating system.

Use IM’s appropriately. Inter-office instant messaging can be a great tool, but it needs to be used appropriately. This means respecting a busy status by not sending messages every few minutes and using it for appropriate communications. If you’re messaging a question that can be resolved with one or two exchanges, go ahead and IM it. If the issue needs discussion or requires an in-depth answer, pick up the phone or walk over to their desk to talk about it.

Don’t abuse your laptop or tablet in meetings. While it’s common for people to bring their laptops or tablets into meetings, they should be used for note-taking and reference purposes. Don’t fall into the temptation to check your email, catch up on sales figures, or work on that project that’s due next week. Stay focused on the meeting, rather than being distracted by your computer.

Stay away from co-worker’s computers. Even though their computer is company property, it’s impolite to sit down in someone else’s space and start clicking away on their keyboard, even if you are just doing a quick fact check.

Read and be familiar with your company’s computer use policy. Some employers restrict computer use to only company-related tasks. Others allow personal internet use during lunch or break time; even if this is the case it’s still not the best idea to be catching up on your friends’ Instagram feeds. Know the policy and stick to it.