During difficult times, such as bad weather, caring for a family member, or a pandemic such as COVID-19, working from home can become an imperative need for an employee. According to a Gallup Poll, the number of U.S. employees working from home increased from 31% on March 13th to 62% on April 2nd. To help companies prepare to work from home, here are four essential steps that will keep employees and companies safe and compliant.
Step 1. Prepare to work from home immediately.
You never know when a viral outbreak may happen that could force your company to work from home. Employees must have the right resources in their home environment. While an employee may be fully set up at their company office, they may need other supplies at home, and it is best to clarify who is providing these resources quickly. Is an extra monitor required? What about a shredder or filing cabinet for classified papers? If an employee is required to purchase these items, they should know as soon as possible to prepare their home environment. If the company provides these items, it is best to let the employee know before items may need to be returned.
Some companies require specific applications for someone to perform their job. Does your company use cloud computing or an on-premise solution to store company data? For an employee to access particular data, the company may need to ensure they are using a cloud-based storage system and that the employee has access to it. If an employee needs to download a chat software or video conferencing application, they must download the correct ones. During pandemics like COVID-19, hackers are quickly creating malicious webpages with links that may look like the right software download. Instead, these links download hacking software onto your employee’s computer and compromise valuable company data. Ensure employees know which software to download by providing them with the exact link necessary to access the correct download.
Once the correct equipment and software have been acquired, employees should test their home environment. Nothing is worse than joining your first Zoom meeting and your audio not working or your webcam showing your spouse working out in the background.
Step 2. Prepare a physical workspace.
In today’s times, most of our lives, especially our work lives, seem to be managed by technology. As powerful as technology is, our devices seem to be very delicate sometimes. An employee’s workspace should be free from slobbering dogs or kids with sticky fingers. These distractions are dangerous to the equipment, and they can also make a day of working from home stressful and less productive.
While a home environment may seem safe, it is also important for employees to lock their computers when they step away. Family members of an employee may not have had as much, or any, security training to know how to avoid hackers. It only takes one click to let a hacker access your company’s private files.
While a desk and chair usually are not provided by an employer, they should reach out to an employee to ensure they have a comfortable workspace. An uncomfortable chair and desk combination can cause an employee pain and distract them from their work. Ensure employees understand the importance of a quality chair and desk so that they can prepare their admirable set up before working from home. While some work from home days might not make a big difference in an employee’s productivity, a longer work from home stint could affect their overall performance.
3. Ensure a Secure Internet Connection
Before an employee begins working from home, they should confirm that they have a reliable internet connection. Home networks should be password protected and have a firewall in place. A neighbor could easily hack a system that is not password protected. To make a network connection even more secure while working from home, an employee could have a wired connection. Instead of connecting to the wifi network, an employee could simply plug their computer into the cable jack, making it even more difficult for a hacker to access the computer.
While “working from home” implies that the employee will actually be working from home, there are some instances where they will be working from a different location. If an employee chooses to work from home while on vacation, that may mean connecting to unknown wifi connections. Wifi cannot always be trusted. An employee could go to a coffee shop and connect to a network that appears to be owned by the business, while it is actually a hacker’s network camouflaged as the coffee shop wifi.
If a company plans on having a majority of employees working from home or even one that is accessing critical information, the company should set up a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN can extend the company’s private network using a public network so that the computer connection is as secure as the connection in the office. Essentially, A VPN allows an employee to access the company’s private network while away from the office. If an employee were to use a public network in a coffee shop or hotel, the VPN would help protect the employee and the company from network hackers.
4. Always be cautious of hacker tricks
During particular times of the year, hackers are working more strategically than usual. For example, during tax season, hackers may use a phishing scam by sending an email claiming to be the IRS. The email would require the recipient to take immediate action by clicking a link to receive their tax refund. Even after tax season, hackers may reach out to individuals by calling them and convincing them that they still owe money to the IRS.
Before any employee is allowed to work from home, or even begin working at a company with private information, they should be required to take a training course to learn how to avoid hackers and their endless scams. Not only is this beneficial to the employees and the employer, but the company will benefit by ensuring its customers that all data is secure. A company should have its technology department research the best training resources and implement them immediately. While every employee must receive the training in the new hire process, it is beneficial to train them throughout their employment. Hackers are smart and always using unique methods. A training course will be able to provide the most relevant information to keep your company safe.
While working from home may be necessary now more than ever, companies should always consider the pros and cons of offering work from home possibilities to employees. Depending on the industry your company is in, it may not always be the best solution. Some businesses cannot function without in-person interactions. However, as more companies across the board switch from paper filing and in-person transactions to cloud-based storage and internet transactions, working from home is becoming a sought after company benefit. To attract top talent in the coming years, a work from home option may be the best offering as long as it is safe!