Heather K Adams
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Storyteller

If you haven't heard of NSFW, rest assured you already know what it means. You know it's coming when someone's about to tell a joke, but looks around first to see if the coast is clear. It's the meme that makes you laugh when you see it Saturday afternoon at a coffee shop, but makes you cringe when you see it Monday morning at work. It's anything your grandma would swat your shoulder for saying, or doing, in polite company. That's right: It's Not Safe For Work.

What qualifies as NSFW?

1. Offensive Material

We've all giggled at a dirty joke. In middle school. We should be beyond that by now, especially in the workplace. Anything too low brow for, you is absolutely NSFW. And jokes that involve discriminating against a group of people? Forget about it. Those aren't okay, anywhere at any time.

2. Nudity

Porn or uncensored nudity is unwelcome in the workplace. No matter how casual your work environment, someone probably isn't going to care for that pinup calendar, or the sexy birthday card your friend gave you. You know, the one with the very friendly fireman on the front? Gam-Gam might appreciate the view, but she certainly wouldn't display it at her desk. NSFW!

3. Profanity

This one might be the first that comes to mind. It's also the hardest. We all have bad days, waking up late, then forgetting an important folder in our rush to get out the door. Yet that big, loud curse word when you realize your mistake doesn't belong in the conference room, or anywhere else in the office. Your co-workers might understand, but does it make you look professional? Not exactly. 

Be professional.

Your number one goal at work isn't to make money. It's to be professional. That should be a point of pride, of course, but it's also what you're always being judged on. Your professional reputation is a key ingredient to you making that money, getting that raise or that recommendation. In short, succeeding. So before you tell that joke or share that video, before you do or say something that might be NSFW, ask yourself: Would this get me a look from Nana at a family dinner? If the answer is yes, then you know what to do.

Online activities to just say no to at work

Pay close attention to your company's internet usage policy for specific rules, but remember that any activity on a work computer is the purview of whoever owns that computer. This means your employer has every right to review your search history, read your emails and office communications, and even keep track of how much time you're spending on the internet. That bored-at-3-pm Facebook black hole you fell into on Thursday? Someone might be taking note.

1. Porn or dating sites

Obvious, and yet it bears reiterating: sexy time and work time don't mix! Not only does it show a lack of professionalism, it also doesn't speak well to your work ethic or your respect for the company. Someone sneaking off to watch a porn video definitely isn't prioritizing their to-do list.

The office also isn't the time or place to look for love. Online dating is exciting and fun and maybe you'll actually meet the love of your life. But are you willing to risk your paycheck just to open a message from that guy who only sends you GIFs?

2. Job hunting and empire building

Do you really need to check for new postings on that job board you just checked this morning before work? You don't. And really, you can't afford to. Your company might actually have a zero-tolerance policy about job hunting on the clock.

Your side gig can also get you in trouble. Whether you're selling art through an online market place or working on a post for a blog that's starting to make you some money, your employer can see what you've been doing on their time. And they're going to hold you accountable.

3. Personal projects of any kind

Writing the next great American novel? Awesome. Just don't do your research for it, or look for an agent or blog about it at work. Same with vacation planning, surprise birthday party organizing or new car shopping.

This again shows a lack of respect for company time, and that extensive online activity might start to raise some red flags.

Consequences of NSFW material at work

There's more at risk than offending your coworkers when you use or share NSFW material. Most workplaces today have clearly defined policies about appropriate office language and behavior

Check your employee handbook or company policies to be clear on what is and isn't allowed. Also listed will be the consequences of getting caught in violation of those rules. These can run from a warning to an official reprimand to actual termination.

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Heather Adams is a freelance storyteller living in a tiny home on wheels. Read more on her blog, Story Notes. Follow her on [email protected]