Don’t hand back your computer without doing this first.
Leaving one job for another takes a lot of steps. After you complete the hurdles of stressful job interviews, negotiating a job offer and setting up your transition, there’s still one crucial step before you bid your old job farewell: deleting your files.
Often, employee handbooks dictate what you can and cannot delete, so you need to be both careful not to run afoul of those policies — and to delete everything you should.
“Employees need to be very wary not to accidentally or intentionally delete or copy any of an employer’s proprietary material, such as emails, contacts, files, documents, software, and the like,” said Joanna Grama, associate vice president of Vantage Technology Consulting Group. “If I had worked on a big project that I was proud of, and wanted to use a deliverable from that project in my work portfolio, I would ask my employer for a copy for that purpose, and also ask them to provide written permission that I can use the copy for certain purposes.”
But once you’ve double-checked what you can delete or take with you, here are five things you should ideally be wiping from your work computer so that you can leave your job in peace.
1. Personal Files Like Photos And Tax Documents
Ideally, you should not be using your work laptop for personal items, but as work and life boundaries blur, it’s easy to forget.
If you are planning an exit, you’ll first want to get rid of any personal files like family photos.
“Generally speaking, if it is permitted in an employee handbook, employees should delete their personal files from a work computer/phone before they leave an employer,” Grama said. “If I stored pictures of my kids on my work phone, I would want to move those files to my own personal storage and delete them from the work device.”
If you downloaded sensitive documents to print at your office, like your W-2 or other tax papers, be sure to delete those, too. “Highly recommend deleting personal files, tax documents, contacts and personal photos,” said Nick Santora, CEO of the security awareness training platform Curricula.
2. Your Browser History
Want to delete any embarrassing Google searches? Grama also recommended deleting your browser history and any passwords that your browser may have saved for you.
3. Any Personal Apps, Software Or Extensions You Downloaded
If you downloaded a bank app or Venmo on a work-issued phone, make sure to delete those before you leave. You should also think about similar items on your laptop.
“If I had downloaded applications, software, or browser extensions for my own use and not used for company purposes, I would probably delete that from the work device as well,” Grama advised. “On my last day, I would also log out of any active applications that I use for work and I would empty the computer’s recycle bin.”
As part of your clean-up process, consider whether you need to update the email address you use to subscribe to any services or newsletters.
“If the newsletter is one that I still want to receive after I leave the employer and it is not a newsletter for my employer, then I will want to change the email address to a personal one,” Grama said. “If the newsletter is one that I no longer want to receive, I could unsubscribe from it, just to keep my work email tidy for whomever might be monitoring it once I leave.“
4. Personal Messaging Apps And Cookies
Your employer can potentially have access to your personal messaging apps, like Apple Messages or Google Hangouts, if you leave them on your work computer, so be sure to take those off, too.
”A lot of people will log in to their personal accounts — think iMessage — on their work computer,” said Andrew Stanek, data science manager at Pave, a compensation startup. “I always suggest logging out of these and clearing your cookies so they don’t stay on the work computer.”
Web browsers also store cookies, which contain information about your website activity and preferences.
On Chrome, select Chrome from the top menu, then “clear browsing data.” From there you will have the option to clear all your cookies. On Firefox, click Privacy & Security, then the “cookies and site data” option. On Safari, choose “clear history” from the Safari tab of the drop-down menu.
If you’ve ever used your work computer for anything personal, you likely saved a password. Be sure to wipe those off before you leave.
“Most of the time work computers will also be used as personal devices on occasion. This means that your passwords and account for personal websites might also remain unless you intentionally delete them off the device,” Santora said. “It’s best to disconnect any type of iCloud or Google Sync to ensure none of your personal information is left behind to your former employer.”
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