Working from home safely – the good, the bad and the overlooked

By May 29, 2020Articles
Working from home safely – the good, the bad and the overlooked

So much has changed for us all in the last few months. Businesses, managers and their teams have navigated business as unusual for several months now. Video calls from the kitchen table are the new normal and teams are juggling homeschooling with remote working.

So, what have we learned so far, and what lessons can we take forward into the anticipated ‘new normal’?

Remote working is here to stay

Whether you love it or loathe it, a rise in homeworking is here to stay. Not only have businesses woken up to the potential of team members having more flexibility in their day while remaining productive, there is also the practical consideration of observing social distancing needs that will stretch long into the future.

Chances are that most office-based workers – those who have been able to work from home – simply cannot return to their offices full time with everyone at the office. Can you imagine a working environment where everyone can easily maintain a two-metre distance? I have visited hundreds of offices and professional facilities and for some it will be a real challenge. It is a simple fact of business – the more space, the greater the overhead, so lean businesses learn to use their space efficiently. There will not be enough space in most offices to accommodate everyone at a distance.

Possible solutions are split shifts or teams working between the office and home more regularly, so reducing the number of people in the office space at any one time. This may seem simple; after all, we’ve been home working for weeks now, but there are some serious threats to consider.

Connection is more than broadband

As an IT professional I associate connection with being online, although in truth the most important association I see through this crisis is human interaction.

We have a responsibility to our team for their health, safety and welfare. Mental health certainly has a significant part to play and just because a colleague is out of sight shouldn’t mean they are out of mind.

My team and I have gone to great lengths to stay connected. This has been hugely valuable for our team morale, and we will keep many of the team interactions benefits as we return to a more normalised world.  Team challenges, competitions, positive group support and interaction are all to be retained and grown.

What tools are available to stay in touch?

Zoom has become the go-to for video conferencing, so much so that it now attracts cyberattacks called Zoombombing – where an intruder jumps into your meeting uninvited! Not only is this irritating and disruptive, you could inadvertently share confidential or sensitive information.

Zoom have reacted quickly and rolled out additional security features, but it highlights a worrying trend in the adoption of new technologies.

When we have a need, we typically turn to a search engine, find a solution and get back to work as quickly as possible. Great for short-term productivity, but consider the wider security implications.

Microsoft Skype or Microsoft Teams, both of which integrate seamlessly with existing Microsoft Office products, are popular.

A quick security checklist for online meetings:

  1. When inviting guests use the waiting room or lobby feature – this allows the meeting organiser to control entrance into the meeting ‘room’.
  2. Double check the email addresses of all attendees – don’t accidentally invite the wrong person.
  3. If you are recording the meeting be sure to notify all participants – most systems will give an automated notification, but it’s best to check as it is a legal requirement.
  4. Notify participants in advance that they will be required to connect to audio and video if these are features you intend to use. Be sure that all confidential information is hidden from view. You may not keep your sales targets on your kitchen wall, but when we return to the office it could be a different story!

Phishing is on the rise

Keen anglers were prohibited from enjoying an afternoon by the lake, but sadly, unscrupulous internet attackers responsible for phishing emails didn’t stop for a second. In fact, we’ve seen a significant rise in attacks.

A phishing campaign is where emails appear to be from a trusted source, but in fact are a gateway to malware, viruses and other nasties. Campaigns are often designed to harvest your usernames and passwords for sensitive sites, such as banks.

Many campaigns have been initiated since COVID-19 hit, often claiming to be from charities raising funds to support key workers.

One of the easiest ways to avoid these attacks is to educate your team; however, with people working remotely it is harder to monitor, and trickier for team members to get a second opinion before clicking that fateful link. Share this ‘quick tips’ list with your team as a reminder:

  1. Is the language appropriate? Spelling and grammatical errors are common in phishing emails.
  2. Before clicking a link in an email check you know who it is from, and do not click the link as shown in the email, but open a web browser and visit the site directly by typing the address.
  3. If you are asked to enter a username and password, be very cautious.
  4. If in doubt, the fastest and easiest way to check the validity of an email is to pick up the phone!

We have been running Cyber Security webinars for our clients, which work really well while most team members are at home, and help to get this across effectively.

Keeping intruders out

Virus and malware protection are a must in any working environment; be sure you don’t overlook this on new computers and laptops distributed to your remote workforce. My team and I have dealt with several situations where, in a rush to keep their team working, managers have distributed laptops without full security and protection installed. This essential software helps protect against human error, as it is just too easy to click a spurious link in an email or anywhere online.  And as boring as it sounds make sure you keep track of what is issued – update your asset register.

The technicalities

There are several ways to keep your team connected to your office services, both securely and quickly. Our recommendation is for Remote Desktop Services (RDS), which avoids the lag associated with accessing files via other types of VPN.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. When connected to it, data is transmitted securely between your office services and the user’s workstation or laptop.

These are just two ways to securely connect to your work network, but please do talk to us if you are planning a long-term homeworking strategy. Security, speed and user support are all essential elements for a productive workforce.

We’re here to help

My team have continued to work (mostly from home) throughout this crisis and we will continue to be here to support you. Please get in touch if we can help.