If you are one of the increasing numbers of individuals who work remotely at least part-time, it’s important to realize that, while you may not always work in a space full of people, you still want to be mindful of your surroundings and how they reflect your choices regarding disclosure and privacy. Just because you may be doing your job from a more personal, private space (e.g., your home), be careful not to develop a false sense of security. In some ways, you may even need to be more hyper aware of your environment.
Every organization handles its cyber security and tracking of employee activity differently. And even if you think you have a good understanding of your company’s culture, you may not know the full extent of your organization’s oversight.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, some companies routinely use programs that can record your every keystroke, take screenshots of your computer desktop, open access to your camera or microphone, or provide detailed reporting on your activity (and inactivity) on different websites and programs — not to mention on your computer in general. A company’s goal for using these programs may not be malicious; it might be focused on measuring and supporting productivity. Still, it’s important to be aware that working in the digital space provides more opportunity for a breach of your privacy. So when it comes to your decisions around disclosure, keep the following mind:
If you work from home and need to participate in a video meeting, remember that your coworkers/clients/others will be able to view your personal space. If you have decided not to disclose your cancer diagnosis, be mindful that there isn’t anything in your background that shows more than you are comfortable sharing. (Note: Many video-conferencing platforms also have settings to blur or replace your background.)
Many offices share log-in information for the company’s video-conferencing platform. To safeguard any personal information, you may want to switch to your own account before having a private tele-health appointment via your work computer. And even then, check that the program is not set to auto-record. Many virtual-conference programs are set to auto-record either locally (to your computer) or in the cloud (stored on your company’s account).
If you need to share your screen during a meeting, be aware of any personal information you may have on your computer. Desktop files, pop-up notifications for incoming emails and even Internet browser bookmarks could be seen by others.
Many companies use a chat application for their employees to communicate, especially when staff is working remote. Note that because your employer owns that program (or the subscription to it), there is always a chance that even your private messages to a coworker you trust could be reviewed by a supervisor or HR. And the same guidance mentioned in “Screen Sharing” (above) applies here: A coworker whom you trust and have discussed your diagnosis with could just as easily accidentally leave their chat window open while sharing a screen during a meeting.
Personal Accounts, Files & Passwords
Be careful not to leave personal accounts open on your work computer. If you do open a personal account (such as your e-mail) on a work device, we recommend you sign out at the end of every day and set up two-factor authentication to ensure no one can sign in to your account without you being notified. Additionally, be very careful not to save medical information on your work computer. Some companies regularly back up all data housed on their devices. Even if you saved a file temporarily and have since deleted it, it could end up getting stored when the server is backed up.
Internet Use & Activity
As mentioned above, companies have different ways of monitoring employees’ activity and productivity, including Internet activity. It’s very easy for your organization’s network administrator to monitor what sites you browse, even if you are doing so in “incognito mode.” Think twice before researching your diagnosis, treatment, side effects or doctors on a company computer if those are things you would like to keep private.
The point is to think ahead before you engage in certain work-related (or personal) activities online and make informed choices. That way, any disclosure related to your diagnosis will be a result of your decision, and you can instead focus on the important aspects of your work.