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The pros and cons of life admin: Do employees have a choice?

Employees spend more time doing life admin tasks than they do for their lunch breaks.

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A new office trend called “life admin” is causing no small cause of alarm among management because of how it may compromise companies, especially when it comes to violating carefully kept protocols and confidential data.

Office privacy and security may also come under threat. Their fears, backed up by IT professionals, are well-founded. Still, the current rate at which technology revolutionizes work schedules, processes, and staff collaboration leaves one uncomfortable question unanswered: what other options do the employees truly have? Unless things slow down —and the chance of that happening are very remote—they may find they have very few choices. With both work and home pressures staring them down, they will just continue to practice life admin while hoping their superiors look the other way.

What is life admin?

Life admin sounds innocent enough, but technically it means employees doing personal chores and tasks while in office premises. The tasks are menial, often obscure and take only a few minutes or seconds to accomplish. They neither stop the employees from doing their jobs nor distract them. That is why many managers and supervisors grant their workforce more than a little latitude when it comes to these “small things.” In truth, many of them would be more alarmed at an employee spending half an hour watching videos on YouTube or posting photos on a personal Facebook account.

When does life admin happen? For instance, a working mother electronically books a dance class for her daughter, using the desktop that had been assigned to her. Another example is the sales manager who books a ticket for an official flight to a sales conference in a nearby city and then uses the same website and the same laptop to buy still another ticket. This time it’s for an adjoining flight that will bring him or her from the location of the conference to a town where his or her elderly dad is enjoying retirement.

Workstation.

Life admin poses a threat to the security of employees. (Source)

Other life admin tasks are paying utility bills and managing personal bank accounts using office-registered equipment while inside the office building. Arguably, life admin tasks are tedious, boring and less time-consuming. They don’t encroach on work hours and disrupt office procedures the same way that a game like Pokemon Go! did.

However, according to BDaily, they do hold serious ramifications that can place the entire enterprise at risk. The article cites research conducted by UK office tech specialist Altodigital on British companies. As it turns out, business owners and IT professionals tasked to watch over the office security are just beginning to realize that risks of life admin.

The unseen risks

How can life admin possibly jeopardize an entire company as well as the people who work in them? Personal emails not subject to office firewalls and other security measures can expose the office to the attacks of hackers. Sensitive data are stored in web browsers or are cached accidentally, which can may them subject to searches later on. Confidential documents may be released through unsecured printers, or they can be saved to the hard drive of the office photocopier.

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The line between personal and professional information is blurred. This makes the data they carry at risk or prey to notorious outside parties like identity thieves, or employees who may have a less noble spirit. This blurring of lines can also disrupt office morale and create unnecessary tension in the office.

For example, a working mom sends information about her salary to an insurance company in order to have her application approved. What if her co-workers accidentally discover that information when they log in to the same desktop the next day? The discovery of supposed private information on her salary can lead to several issues in the office such as jealousy, office intrigue, spite, gossip, and resentments. All of which will be hard to clean up.

Browsing internet

Looking at personal bank accounts is also one of the life admin tasks. (Source)

The revelation of the life admin tasks that are usually done in the office also indicates the high level of sensitive information that is placed at risk. These include appointments made to doctors and financial transactions. Information regarding secured bookings at health spas and beauty salons and payment electricity and water bills and other utilities are also in danger of being compromised.

Furthermore, in a breach of ethics, online job searches are not safe. This latter activity can prove to be damaging to both employer and job-searching employee alike should it be discovered. Chances are they won’t trust each other to the same degree anymore.

Coping with life admin risks

Given this new piece of information coming out, managers are scrambling to place a lid on life admin tasks. And while the research consists of British companies, it would be logical to assume that these same activities are happening in other countries. But regardless of location, what measures can they place to minimize if not reduce the security risks without making the jobs of their workforce even harder?

While online job searches done in the workplace can be a cause of termination in some companies, the prohibition of some life admin tasks may be downright impractical, if not counterproductive. If a parent has to step out of the office to just do book a child’s appointment with a doctor or to pay online for a bill, it would take at least 30 minutes. Focus and distraction would suffer. If the employee were to find the repetition of these tasks every month downright inconvenient, they just might look for other work options.

Using laptop, life admin

Performing Life Admin tasks using office computers and laptops endangers the confidential information of the company. (Source)

Another factor that employers have to contend with is that mobility is increasingly becoming important to a company’s success. According to Forbes, 81 percent of executives see mobile work being done through smart devices as highly important in reaching out to their customers, or in making their employees more productive.

Increased mobility, in turn, will encourage the workplace to function, even remotely. It promotes collaboration among colleagues and partners in coworking spaces. It becomes easier to hold conferences with clients over technologies like Skype. The Information Age adds that the growth of this so-called mobile market will rise to more than $73 billion in four years’ time.

Finding the balance

All this mobility will make the average employee used to—or at least, familiar with—working remotely in various locations or using smart devices to execute their task. Their chances of spending their working hours in an office building will further decrease. With such a mobile lifestyle dominating their work processes, again the lines between doing a personal task and a professional one will just fade.

Imagine, for example, an event manager setting up shop for a conference out of town. A call from his credit card company to settle his bill would force him or her to do it online using his smart device. It would be impractical, and even ludicrous, to wait for a week and pay the penalty to pay the bill right in his or her own hometown. 

Life admin does pose very serious security risks and challenges that have to be answered to preserve business safety and continuity. Crafting a solution would not be easy, especially as the issues addressed are dependent on the constantly changing technologies that impact the workplace. But it has to be done, and done as soon as possible if both managers and staff have to find some peace of mind without compromising their efficiency.

Jeremy Whannell loves the great outdoors, business, and technology, and writes about the intersections of all three when the opportunity arises. An internet culture nerd, he also loves to talk about artifical intelligence and gaming.

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