When we rang in 2020, little did we know that the next two years would be a crash course in remote work. Long looked down upon in many legal jobs, work-from-home became an overnight requirement when the pandemic hit.

Many of us are still solidly entrenched in remote work, whether fully or partially as part of a hybrid work model. In an ideal world, we would have separate devices for work, but that’s frequently not possible. For many of us, that means we’re conducting personal and work business with the same devices. 

For in-house lawyers who regularly deal with a lot of sensitive company information, the consequences of inadvertently mixing the two can be great. The following tips will help you keep your personal and work digital lives from bleeding together.

1. Make Professionalism Your Default

If you’re using one machine for both work and personal business, that means you’ll likely be using some of the same apps and software for both purposes as well. For example, if you’re using Google Meet for a work call, all your personal Google settings will be imported to that call, including your photo and your screen name. For that reason, make sure your entire Google profile is something you would want your company to see. Your friends won’t care if you seem overly professional online, but work will probably care if you don’t.

2. Let’s Talk About Zoom

Tip #1 above fully applies to Zoom, but since the use of Zoom for work videoconferencing exploded in 2020 and 2021, it merits its own special mention. Zoom offers a lot of customizations that, while fun, aren’t appropriate for work. This includes the ability to change your background and your name, and now you can add filters as well. Always double check your setting before getting on a work call, especially if you have children who might be using your computer or Zoom account for school or to talk with friends. No one wants to be the next cat lawyer.

3. Use Remote Desktop Technologies as Much as Possible

Many companies and most legal departments, in particular, employ remote desktop technologies and VPNs to eliminate cybersecurity concerns. With employees working from home, these security measures are more important than ever. There’s a good chance you might be restricted from accessing your company network by any means other than the remote desktop tool and a VPN, but even if they’re not required, you should be using them anyway. This will prevent any activity on your home network from bleeding into your work or opening your company up to cybersecurity attacks. Operating in separate desktop environments also helps ensure that you don’t accidentally share work information with a personal audience and vice versa.

4. Avoid Local Storage

If you’re working from your personal computer and not using a remote desktop tool, you need to be extra careful that all the work you’re doing and everything you’re saving is taking place within your company’s systems and tools. Storing business data and information locally on your personal devices can be highly problematic. For starters, your company has no ability to protect or monitor sensitive information if it exists solely on your personal machine and not in the company’s system, and most of us don’t have security measures on our personal computers that are up to the standards of our employers. Additionally, saving information outside of your virtual workspace can make it hard for you (and impossible for others) to find later on when you need it most.

5. Think Before You Slack

Slack isn’t the only online messaging tool, but it’s probably the most popular. Many people today are using it both for personal communications and as a legitimate business tool. Moreover, it’s incredibly common for in-house lawyers to use it to chat with their colleagues, especially if they’re no longer working under the same roof, which can blur the line between personal and professional even more. When you use Slack or any other similar chat tool like Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, or Yammer at your job, you should assume that anything you type could one day be seen by your employer or collected in the course of litigation. That doesn’t mean you can’t keep using these tools for communications that aren’t strictly professional, but there are ways to go about it that can make a big difference in how those conversations are viewed or used down the road. A good starting place is to use designated Slack channels for work communications, and ideally you should label them in a way that indicates what matter or project they relate to.

Whether you love the freedom of working from home or miss the camaraderie of working in the office, remote work seems like it’s here to stay in one form or another. Separating your work from your personal life doesn’t have to cause headaches. A little bit of forethought will go a long way toward keeping your personal and work digital lives from bleeding together.