How to Get Equipment Back from a Terminated Employee: No Lasso Needed

Returning devices is more challenging in terms of effort while allowing employees to keep them puts data at risk. Is there an optimal solution? Let’s dive deeper and find out.

an image metaphorically depicting the process of equipment retrieval from a terminated employee

While the practice of returning equipment from terminated employees is nothing new, the landscape has evolved significantly in recent times. Many enterprises have long had explicit policies determining whether employees must return equipment upon termination or if they are allowed to retain it. Such policies are underscored by formal acknowledgments and agreements employees make before their employment. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, as many more people have started working remotely, old solutions have ceased functioning.

Returning equipment from a remote employee can pose operational challenges when a well-established workflow is absent. In cases where the parting is less than amicable, former employees may be uncooperative, making the retrieval process even more intricate.

Terminating a remote employee raises critical questions about data security and equipment recovery. How can an organization safeguard the data linked to these devices? How do you get equipment back from terminated employees even if they fail to deliver it? This article delves into these pressing concerns and offers practical solutions.

How to return equipment of a remote employee

Terminating a remote employee presents a challenge that ultimately revolves around two options:

  1. Retrieve the equipment: This option involves actively seeking the return of company-owned equipment from the terminated employee.
  2. Write it off and allow them to keep the device(s): Alternatively, this approach entails acknowledging the employee’s retention of the device(s) and forgoing the retrieval process.

Each of these options carries its own set of advantages and limitations. In the following sections, we’ll look at each option, helping you determine the most suitable course of action for your organization.

Option 1: Retrieve the equipment

To facilitate equipment returns, companies commonly establish a workflow where the terminated employee gets an empty box with a return label shipped to them. The employee then has to drop off the equipment in this box at one of the shipper’s locations.

HR and IT specialists going for this option and wanting it to run smoothly should consider these best practices for returning remote employee equipment:

  • Simplify the process. Make the procedure as simple as possible for the employee. Remember that you’re the one who needs this project fulfilled. People tend to avoid complicated tasks. So make the job of delivering back the equipment easy and fun.
  • Provide clear instructions. Develop clear instructions for the return procedure and share them with the employee.
  • Utilize prepaid shipping labels. Offer prepaid, pre-printed shipping labels to eliminate the need for employees to fill out forms, print labels, or pay for shipping out of their pocket.
  • Offer incentives. Consider offering incentives, such as discount codes for popular stores or cafes, as a token of appreciation for timely equipment returns.
  • Automation solutions. Explore automation solutions like Retriever or Readycloud, which can take over responsibilities such as employee reminders, doorstep pickups, and shipment tracking and provide easy packing kits and instructions, easing the burden on your end.

Some benefits of this option compared to writing off the devices include:

  • Data security – and this is by far the most crucial benefit. When equipment is returned, the employer can ensure that all sensitive data, including cached or backup data, is completely wiped according to the organization’s data disposal policies.
    • While remote data wiping can be effective in many cases, especially when devices are lost or stolen, returning equipment for in-house data wiping provides an additional layer of security and peace of mind for the company.
  • Cost savings. Returning equipment can save the company money on capital expenses. This is especially significant if the equipment is expensive or the organization must redistribute it to other employees.
  • Compliance and documentation. Keeping a record of the equipment’s return and disposal demonstrates compliance with data security and disposal policies. This documentation is valuable for audits and regulatory requirements.
  • Environmental considerations. Returning equipment for responsible disposal or recycling aligns with environmental and sustainability goals. Many companies aim to reduce e-waste and minimize their ecological footprint. Moreover, demonstrating responsible and ethical handling of old equipment can enhance a company’s brand image and reputation, especially if they promote sustainability and corporate social responsibility.


  • Collecting and refurbishing a device costs money. If the equipment is heavily used, the effort might not be worth the effect. Plus, equipment that has been used at an employee’s home may be in a different condition than when it was initially provided. This can affect its usability or resale value.
  • Employee resistance. Some employees may delay or resist returning the device due to busyness or strained relationships with the employer. In the case of remote employees, there may be limited means to compel compliance if they are unwilling to cooperate.

Option 2: Let the employee keep the device and write it off

Some companies prefer to let the employee keep the device while remotely wiping all the vulnerable data and disconnecting the user from corporate accounts.


  • Minimal operational effort. By not retrieving equipment from terminated employees, companies can save on the costs associated with collecting, refurbishing, and redistributing equipment. This can be exceptionally cost-effective if the equipment’s value is relatively low.

With Alloy Software’s IT asset management solution, you can quickly compare the purchase price and the current value of any organizational asset—see the screenshot below. Connect with our sales team to learn more.

screenshot from Alloy Navigator
  • Moreover, not retrieving equipment can streamline the termination process, allowing for quicker organizational changes.
  • Employee morale. Allowing employees to keep their equipment, even after termination, can be a sign of goodwill. This may contribute to better relationships with former employees.


  • Data security: One of the most significant limitations is the potential risk to data security. Employees who retain company equipment may have access to sensitive data, and the company loses control over the security of that data.
    • Even if the equipment is remotely wiped, data residue can be left on devices. This residual data can be a security risk if the employee uses the equipment for personal purposes. Wiping the data in-house helps ensure the highest level of security.

Ivan Samoylov: “Wiping information remotely is not always simple. Moreover, when the wiping process is under the control of the company’s IT specialists, it becomes easier to standardize, thus reducing risks.”

  • Asset management: Failing to collect and manage equipment assets effectively can result in inaccurate inventory records, making it challenging to track assets and allocate resources efficiently.
  • Environmental impact: Retaining equipment that is no longer in use can have environmental implications, contributing to a negative ecological footprint.

What if the employee does not return the equipment

Suppose you considered the benefits and limitations and chose the first option. You arranged the shipping and set up a procedure to make the return easy. What if the employee fails to return the devices nevertheless?

Some use scripts to turn the laptop into kiosk mode, where the only visible window displays instructions on how to return it, so the device becomes unusable for other purposes.

On forums and communities, the following option is discussed and considered by many as viable. If the employee doesn’t return the equipment within X days after the termination, its cost is deducted from the final paycheck. However, lawyers warn that in many states, the practice might be treated as a withholding from the employee’s final pay, which is unlawful, and advise not to go this way.

Alloy Software is not a law firm; we are not giving legal advice. We suggest you consult a lawyer to adjust HR practices to your business requirements. However, we can help you by providing software streamlining the equipment return procedure!

Start your trial with Alloy Software today

Alloy Navigator for safe equipment return

With Alloy Navigator, a solution for IT service management and IT asset management, you can keep track of all company IT assets. Thanks to the so-called Configuration Management Database, you can access data associated with IT assets and see the connections between these assets and the relationships between people and assets.

Having exposure to these tools, your IT personnel are fully prepared for handling equipment returns.

You can see the IT assets connected with an employee and a summary of the asset information in their Person records.

screenshot from Alloy Navigator

By exploring the Asset record, you can access all the essential information about the asset. This includes:

  • Information on the operating system,
  • HDD/RAM type and free space,
  • Display configuration,
  • Software installed,
  • Login history,
  • Warranty expiration dates,
  • Purchase order number, purchase price, and the current value of the asset,
  • and many more.

Moreover, it’s not just about seeing the assets and the relationships between them in the interface of Alloy Navigator. Whether visible to the user or not, these relationships exist in the system, and you can use them to build custom workflows. For example, you can use this information as input in the offboarding workflow.

Key takeaways

  • Remote work has reshaped equipment return practices, and challenges arise. While returning equipment and wiping all data in-house is better in terms of security, it’s not that easy to execute. When you break up on bad terms, or when the ex-employee is uncooperative, it might be challenging to get your equipment back.
  • If you still decide to return it, you’ll enjoy data security and will be able to reuse the equipment. However, when planning this process, prepare for operational efforts, and potential resistance of the ex-employees.
  • Allowing employees to keep equipment reduces effort significantly. Still, keep in mind higher data security risks because remote data wiping isn’t as reliable as one made in-house.
  • If the employee doesn’t return the equipment despite your help and reminders, you can try to make the device unusable remotely. To learn about possible legal sanctions, we suggest consulting a lawyer.
  • For safe equipment return, try Alloy Navigator. Among other great features, our product provides an IT asset management solution for tracking assets and relationships between them, including a quick check of devices assigned to the employee who is to be terminated.

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