Millions of Brits fess up to making 'critical' mistakes at work that could have cost the company money

MILLIONS of workers have made a "critical" error in their job – but got away with it.

A study of 2,000 workers found one in five have made what they consider to be a critical mistake at work, and 12% have taken a risk that cost their company money.

It also found one in six (15%) have replied all to a private email instead of just to one person and 12% have left sensitive documents on their desk for others to see.

While more than one in 10 (13%) have forgotten to mute themselves and said something inappropriate on a work call.

Other errors include failing to hang up a phone properly before saying something about the person on the other end (8%).

These mistakes have left 45% feeling stressed and 41% panicked.

But while 11% faced repercussions from their error, almost half (48%) escaped being disciplined and 41% admitted that no-one ever found out about their mistake.

A further 30% consider themselves to be "adrenaline junkies" with 12% taking more risks than ever before since the pandemic.

A spokesperson from data storage and information management firm, Iron Mountain, which commissioned the study, said: "We are all human and make mistakes, but it can be stressful when you make one at work, and that stress can snowball into further errors.

“How organisations succeed in managing internal risk-taking is crucial, especially given the growing threats posed by remote working and cyber criminality.”

The study also found a third of working adults (33%) are willing to take a risk at work as long as they don’t get caught.

Although 42% have made a mistake or taken a risk in their workplace which left them embarrassed, many are still willing to take major risks.

Almost a third (29%) admit to using the same passwords across multiple platforms, 26% leave their computer unlocked and 16% keep their password on a note on their desk.

Similarly, three quarters (73%) of employees do not see the value in using a privacy screen for their laptop on public transport.

More than six in 10 (61%) do not see forgetting to shred important documents as a risk, and 67% would be happy to allow family and friends to use their work computer.

In spite of these vulnerabilities, 61% still consider themselves risk averse at work.

The same number consider themselves risk averse when it comes to their personal finances, while 56 per cent avoid any risks in a relationship.

While just over half (57%) want to play it safe with their health, according to the study carried out via OnePoll.

Nearly a fifth of adults continue to save their personal card details as a pre-filled form with 16% logging onto public wi-fi to complete their work.

The spokesperson for Iron Mountain added: “Fortunately, while it’s challenging to change human nature, you can change how you approach risk in the workplace.

“It’s important for organisations to build a strong strategy that considers the risks people are likely to take.

“We advise empowering every employee to become a risk ambassador by embedding risk awareness within your culture.

“This creates a safe space in which employees can innovate and business thrive by ensuring resilience is built into every stage of your business processes”.


  • Updated your existing password by just a number or letter
  • Used the same password across multiple platforms
  • Shopped online using the work computer
  • Forgotten to lock your laptop when you leave your desk
  • Accidentally deleted an important email
  • Forwarded a work document to a personal email address for printing or working from home
  • Booked a holiday on the work computer
  • Kept your password on a note in or on your desk
  • Accidentally ‘replied all’ on an email instead of replying to an individual
  • Applied for another job on the work computer
  • Forgotten to mute yourself or turn off the camera on a video call, when appropriate
  • Streamed TV on the work computer
  • Sent a private DM to the wrong person
  • Had a nap at your desk
  • Left sensitive documents (contracts, financial details etc.) on your desk
  • Shared the wrong screen or forgotten to stop sharing on a video call
  • Failed to hang up on the phone with a customer or client and said something they shouldn’t have heard
  • Copied in the person you’re talking about in an email
  • Spilt a drink all over the laptop
  • Accidentally revealed your password to a colleague

As well as this data, it's been revealed that as many as nine nurses and midwives a month get the boot for serious misconduct and incompetence.


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