Home > Office Mistakes > Office Mistake #1: Leaving your Desk before Checking your Computer Monitor…

Office Mistake #1: Leaving your Desk before Checking your Computer Monitor…

Do you ever walk by someone’s desk and catch a glimpse of something that probably shouldn’t be on the screen? Maybe they were checking their bank account balance. Maybe they were reading an online news article. Maybe they were checking their most recent paycheck stub online. Or maybe they were on Facebook. So what’s the big deal? Well maybe you work in an environment where it’s acceptable to be surfing the Internet during the work day, but I know where I work, it’s not. Even if it was acceptable, I wouldn’t want people to know how much money I make or how much money I have in my checking account. Leaving pages like this on your screen while you’re away can damage your reputation at work and may even cause you to lose your job. Now, we wouldn’t want that to happen right?

To help you prevent this office mistake, I’d like to share with you a few simple tips and tricks:

1. Lock Your Computer.

Most companies encourage employees to lock their computers when they leave to safeguard their data and information. To lock your computer, press Ctrl+Alt+Del on your keyboard at the same time. This should bring up a window asking you what you want to do. The default selection is “Lock Computer.” You can either click that button or press Enter and your computer will be locked. Some computers are not set up to display this window when you press Ctrl+Alt+Del. So, here is a guide to enable the Windows Security window.

ctrl alt delete windows security lock computer

2. Minimize All Windows.

If you don’t want completely lock your computer (since you’ll have to re-login when you return), you can simply minimize all your windows. Pressing Windows+M will send all your open windows to the task bar. This is a good option when you have to get up to grab something from the printer; when you won’t be away from your computer for long.

minimize all windows m

3. Screen Saver.

We all know what a screen saver is (I hope). Using a screen saver is like a back-up plan in case you forget the tips above. You can set your screen saver to turn on after one minute of inactivity and you can set it to prompt the user for a password upon return. That’s like an extra level of security. To turn on your screen saver, right click on the desktop and select Properties. When the Properties window appears, click the Screen Saver tab. From here you can select what type of screen saver you want, how soon you want it to turn on, and whether or not you want to password protect it.

display properties screen saver windows password

4. Turn Off Your Monitor(s).

I’ve never really seen anyone use this option and I wouldn’t recommend it over the three tricks above, but it is an option. Find the power button on your monitor(s) and just shut them off when you leave your desk. When you come back, press the power button to turn the monitor(s) back on.

monitor power button on off dell

**Please note, the tricks above work with Windows XP, as most companies have not migrated to Windows Vista or Windows 7. Although, most of these processes are very similar between each of the operating systems.

Image Credit:

Windows Security

Minimize All Shortcut

Screen Saver Properties

Monitor Power Button

Webpage Credit:

Microsoft Support – Using Ctrl+Alt+Del to open Windows Security

  1. April 1, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Eric – what a great post!!! This is one of the key ways that data is accessed unauthorized through social engineering. Awesome post!


    • April 1, 2011 at 2:17 PM


      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked it. I wrote this post based on employees browsing websites they shouldn’t be browsing at work, so I’m glad you brought up the point of social engineering, because these tips are just as effective against security threats like that.


  2. April 1, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    Almost always an audit finding in organizations and many times the culprits are those with administrative privileges. Go figure. These simple things go a long way to protecting sensitive information. Great post!

    • April 1, 2011 at 2:19 PM


      Thanks for the comment. I know where I work, information security is a HUGE deal. I have them to thank for training me how to safeguard my information.


  3. April 3, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    I have fist hand experience of making these mistakes while working out in the field. My punishment is that my computer now locks itself every 30 seconds. I think I get off this probation sometime soon. I wish I could have read this first!

    Great as always!


    • April 4, 2011 at 5:05 PM


      Well I guess that will teach you to better safeguard your computer! That 30 second auto-lock should keep you busy too. Because now if you stop working for more than 30 seconds, you’ll have to log back into to continue working. I’ll bet that motivates you to work more consistently. As if you don’t work hard enough as it is!


  4. ireneyachan
    April 4, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Thanks for the tips, Eric! Especially the minimize all window short cut! Ever since I upgraded my work computer to Window 7, the “hide/minimize all” icon on the bottom left corner of the screen disappeared and I’ve been minimizing all windows/files one by one if I want to open something from the desktop. This is very helpful! Thanks again!

    • April 4, 2011 at 5:08 PM


      I’m glad you liked my tips. I really like Windows 7 actually. I have it on my home computer, but our work hasn’t migrated over yet. Most the the shortcuts for Windows XP are the same for Windows 7 anyway.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. johnaiden
    November 1, 2011 at 5:52 AM

    Thanks for sharing these great tips.Mostly people leave their desk without locking the PC that cause the illegal use of personal data.Again thank you for sharing this lovely stuff.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: