Man working remotely from home.

How Can Employees Protect Their Privacy in the New Remote Workplace?

When you work from home, you might be opening a window that lets your employer invade your privacy and personal space. You need to be aware of the most common privacy risks that arise when working from home and strategies for how to protect yourself. If you think that your boss has accessed your personal information, a Washington employee rights attorney might be able to help. 

With so many people not going into the office and working remotely instead, employers and employees have had to utilize technology from home to get the work done and stay in business. Many companies are using Zoom, Uber Conference, and other video conferencing services. You might be performing company work on your home computer and using personal applications, printers, or other equipment in order to get the work done. Here are a few suggestions on how employees can protect their privacy in the new remote workplace.

Video-Conference Meetings

Unless you routinely used Zoom or similar video conferencing software in your job before the pandemic, you might not realize how much people can see about your private life when you participate in a video meeting simply because of the streaming video. Here are a few ways to control what people can see and hear during Zoom meetings:

  • Turn off the camera. If live video is not required, you can post a photo of yourself or simply your name instead of a live video feed. You can turn off your camera, disable video in your settings,  or put a sticky note or painter’s or electrical tape over the camera on your computer.
  • Zoom has a virtual background feature that lets you display an image or video rather than the interior of your house. Some people use a sunset, a cityscape, some other stock photo, or a video. The other parties on the call will still see you, but they will not see your surroundings in the background. 
  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking. Not only will it spare everyone else from hearing your screaming kids, but it will also improve the sound quality of the meeting. When too many microphones are open, there can be feedback problems and bandwidth issues.
  • Assume your boss is recording all work-related Zoom meetings, even if your supervisor is not present in the meeting. Make sure that you do not say something that you would not want your employer to hear. Remote meetings can give a person a false sense of security.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Since Zoom picks up all sorts of visual and auditory information, do yourself and your co-workers a favor and refrain from being in the bathroom or bedroom during video conferences. If you only dressed for business from the waist up, make sure that you remain seated during the entire meeting. Your co-workers do not need to see your pajama bottoms or worse.
  • During breaks, logout of the meeting entirely and log back in to resume the meeting. 

Depending on your situation, there might be additional steps you want to take to safeguard your privacy.

Be Aware of “Big Brother”

Software can help your boss track and monitor what you do during work hours, such as the websites that you visit on the computer, when you are active and typing, and other details. Some employers stay within the law when using this type of software, but some do not. Make sure you understand your employer’s remote work policy and if you are using personal equipment, ask your employer what its policy is regarding accessing information on employee’s personal devices.  

If you use your personal email for any work purpose, your employer might feel justified in searching your personal email. We recommend using a separate personal email for remote work if you cannot use your work email. You should request a separate work laptop and printer if available. Do not use your employer-provided computer or equipment for personal reasons or to access personal information such as banking and other financial data.

Contact a Washington employment attorney today. If you would like further advice regarding your privacy rights while working from home, our Washington employee rights attorney can help you navigate these uncharted waters and protect you from the improper invasion of your privacy.