Remote work became a buzzword just recently when the pandemic hit as it forced businesses to make something that was once considered a commodity into a necessity. However, even before the business landscape readjusted dramatically to accommodate recent events, remote work was very much alive and thriving.
The need for remote work did not come to be because people wanted to be more comfortable at home, though that is an added bonus that appears to be affecting productivity somewhat positively. As recently as in 2019, an ever-increasing percentage of companies and even smaller businesses leveraged this option as means of retaining invaluable talent.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic did however accelerate the shift and it is estimated that half of all employed people are now working remotely at least part of the time. Needless to say, making this possible required proportional action by IT departments across the globe, and systems and infrastructure to support this delicate machinery were scaled up on in an unprecedented way.
But not all is as bright as it seems – as we are seeing in recent months, many businesses were simply not prepared to pivot their operations and did not consider everything needed to enable safe remote work, in turn, leading to the rise in cyber attacks and loss of business that could have otherwise be retained.
Below we outline several steps that can help keep your business safe throughout these drastic shifts.
Preparing Your Infrastructure, Equipment, and Applications
To accommodate more employees working from the comfort of their own homes, you will need to first ensure that your network is secure, that everyone connects to it via VPN and that all data is securely backed up.
Further, employees will leave an empty desk but will definitely need their equipment, so a system must be put in place so that any hardware they take home is cataloged and signed for. All equipment issued to an employee must have its serial name associated with the full employee name to ensure that everything is monitored and that there is no potential for any malicious action.
Once this step is completed, all employees will need to have everything set up in advance to be able to simply plug in at home and do work. This means that any applications that a person will be needing to complete assignments will need to be preinstalled and updated to their latest versions.
This not only ensures that your business does not stall but also removes the risk that an employee will download software to do work that may not be safe or licensed, leading to a security gap.
Some of the commonly preinstalled apps include:
- Remote access apps such as RemotePC, TeamViewer, Chrome Remote Desktop, and so on
- Communication apps such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, etc.
- Time management and tracking applications such as Monday, Timely, etc.
- Apps for project management, notably Jira, Trello, Asana, and others.
Employee Security Training
To ensure that everything continues to run smoothly after the initial transition to remote work, all employees should be equipped with basic knowledge of how to maintain data and devices secure.
A good course of action is to provide security training sessions given by an IT expert who will be able to explain what is expected in simple and easy to understand terms. In case you do not have an expert that can cover all these topics on board, there are numerous online training programs that can be purchased to this end.
Some basic thing that each employee needs to be aware of are as follows:
- Online security – being able to recognize suspicious online activity, phishing attempts, and insecure websites, for example, is a must
- Device security – adhering to security policies of your business is crucial and employees need to make sure that all data is stored on company cloud storage and not on the local device
- Wi-Fi security – devices should not be connected to unsecured and unencrypted Wi-Fi as this makes it easy for malicious individuals to access your data and credentials
Regardless of whether your remote staff has received training outlined above, the fact remains that cyber attacks are getting more polished and it is sometimes nearly impossible to distinguish legitimate activity from a breach attempt. It is precisely because of this that all systems and networks need to be monitored at all times.
Managed IT services providers typically monitor your network at all times and have an alert system in place for whenever something suspicious happens.
Embracing Flexibility and Focusing on People
Remote work allows for more freedom for employees and saves them hours in getting ready and commute time. However, not everything is as simple as it sounds and some employees may have issues balancing their home life and work. To facilitate this, we should consider modernizing and becoming more flexible, thus allowing employees ease of access whenever they feel productive while remaining available as expected.
In addition to being flexible and allowing odd hours for example, we can also increase productivity by allotting time for relationship building. While staff will be able to spend more time at home which does increase productivity, that same productivity begins to fall if we are not maintaining strong work relationships.
To ensure that the bonds we created with coworkers during our hours remain strong, it is important to set aside time to reach out – but also to promote the use of the communications and messaging applications whenever possible.
Remote work is no longer an option offered to great talent only – it is a necessity for most businesses to resume operating in these trying times. To maintain business integrity and reputation, however, each organization will need to continuously modernize to stay ahead of the game.
If nothing, this pandemic has shown us that we are entering a new era of doing business, and we have to scale accordingly.