How to Separate Work and Personal Life on Devices

Starting a new job can be fun and exciting. If you’re lucky, you can keep whatever you do within the office. But let’s be realistic: you’re probably going to do a little work at home, or play catch-up, or sip on delicious drinks, while you’re using your company’s “you don’t have to physically show up” policy.

As your personal and work life begins to intertwine, it can be difficult to manage the balance between your various devices. This is how I did it.

Build a wall between work and non-work on your laptop

If you’re lucky, you have full administrator rights on a laptop made by the company and they don’t care what you do with your system – within reasonable limits. (For example, try not to break it.)

Then there’s no reason why you can’t (or shouldn’t) split your main hard drive into two partitions , one for work and the other for personal use. If you can, set up file encryption on at least the latter – chances are good that the job will force you to encrypt the former, or pre-installed a program that does it on your behalf.

Standard rules apply: If this is a laptop made by a company, you should still have a good idea of ​​what you are doing. Even on your personal section, this is probably not the time to run BitTorrent, search for pornography, or do anything else that might get you in trouble at work. You can never be too careful.

There are many benefits to having a personal divider. First, you can bypass any annoying software installed on your behalf – for example, maybe it has some kind of third-party software installation and update tool that forces you to exit your web browser to apply the update right then when you’re doing something. Or perhaps something so unpleasantly configured software on your system that you are prevented from installing the latest updates for your operating system, as they conflict with custom (and unnecessary) applications in your work.

It is also much easier to maintain this work-life balance if you know that the WORK section is for work and the [YOUR NAME] section is for fun – smart fun. You won’t be so easily confused or tempted to install Steam on your workspace (which could potentially be monitored by your company’s IT department). You won’t accidentally store all of your personal passwords in a section on a device that others can access at any time, especially if you leave the company and forget to wipe your laptop before turning it on.) You won’t be looking at websites that you shouldn’t be looking at when you are automatically logged into a corporate VPN. Such things.

Another option: separate your work and personal life in your apps.

If the thought of dividing your system’s hard drive into two partitions is too daunting, uncomfortable for you, or prohibited from doing it, there are at least a few steps you can take to organize your desktop. or laptop.

For example, consider creating separate work and personal profiles in your web browser . You still shouldn’t use the latter to do something that you would be embarrassed to tell your boss, but it will at least help you eliminate distractions by removing cute animal pictures from your online spreadsheets. Each browser profile can have its own set of bookmarks, extensions, and even sync various things between your other work and personal devices – it’s organized this way.

We do not recommend trying to merge your work and personal life into separate applications. For example, don’t start sucking all your personal email into Outlook if that’s what your company uses for all of its email. Keep Gmail (or the service of your choice) in place.

An exception is your personal calendar. I’ve found it’s much easier to manage your life when you can see all your calendars in one app. Easily subscribe to one calendar’s .ICS feed from another , giving you an easy way to see all of your work and non-work appointments at the same time. This can help make sure the drinks you plan after work don’t conflict with your financial emergency meeting.

If you really want to go crazy on your corporate computer, you might also want to consider running any third-party applications you download in an sandbox so they don’t mess with anything on your production system. This is a slightly more extreme approach, but we are confident that your IT department will love you for it.

What about your smartphone?

This is where it gets interesting. If a job gives you a smartphone to use, you will have to decide how convenient it is for you to store your personal data on the device.

Generally, I would recommend not syncing your web browsing at home with your smartphone. Keep two separate. In fact, you may even want to use a separate browser for work and personal tasks; sync one with the account you use for work (say Firefox), and use the other for personal browsing – just to keep everything you do out of sync with your desktop or laptop. (You will never know.)

I do the same with my email. Even though my work and personal email is handled by Google, I still prefer to use Mail on my iPhone for work email and the Gmail app for personal email. While I could just as well use Gmail for everything, I love this artificial wall as well as the mental wall. I know that everything I send by mail always works, and everything I send to Gmail is always personal. These two never meet.

(I’m more forgiving with my calendar, putting everything in one calendar app for the reasons mentioned earlier.)

If possible, you can (and should) sync your to-do lists across whatever app you use to manage them. Assuming that you, like everyone else, have to do tasks outside of normal work hours from time to time, it is helpful to reconcile your personal and work tasks. How else do you plan yours after work?

If you connect a personal account to your work smartphone, you must be very, very careful with any other data that you automatically sync to your device. I’d stick with the basics: email, calendar, to-do. Don’t sync your photo library with your work account; use another app to upload photos to your cloud, but don’t drag down.

If you’re lucky, your smartphone allows you to clearly distinguish between personal and work profiles for your apps. If you’re unlucky, you’ll have to bite a bullet and carry around two devices: a disabled work smartphone, which you only use for work, and your personal device, which you only use for everything else. It’s a pain in your pocket, but it’s not the worst practice for peace of mind.

When in doubt, usual advice applies.

We live in an era where it is becoming more and more common to combine work and personal life on the same devices. No matter how clever your decision is, never forget the rule of thumb: anything you do on any device your company issues is likely tracked, or could be easily tracked if any of your actions raised a red flag.

In other words, don’t put anything on your company’s device that could cost you work, whether it is intentional or accidental syncing from your personal account. And if you’re concerned about data privacy, don’t put anything on the company’s device that you don’t want to back up and store somewhere on the company’s server, be it your documents, private text messages, or your cat’s photos. …

Most people follow a strict “work devices are designed to work 100% of the time” policy, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you need to blur lines, blur lines, but it’s also okay to never tie anything personal to a working device. You won’t be outnumbered, trust me.


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