As companies try to cope with day to day life in the midst of the coronavirus, many have moved their employees to home working, some for the first time.
While this change can seem daunting for both employee and employer, there's no reason why it can't be business as usual, with the right steps taken when it comes to the essentials- such as video conferencing and security.
We take a look at the five key tips experts have provided, for successfully transitioning to a remote workforce.
1. Ensure you have a robust working from home policy
For some companies, having staff work from home will come fairly naturally, given that it's becoming more and more common. In the US, 3.9 million employees work remotely, and of course that number has exploded in the last few weeks.
While it's business as usual for some organisations, others will have been caught totally off guard, as McAfee points out in its recent blog. There are many facets to a working from home policy, but one of the most important is security best practice.
It's important to be clear with your employees exactly what your expectations are, and what they can and can't do. Are you happy with them using their own laptops, or are you going to insist on using company-approved laptops only? Can you be sure that employees are locking their laptops when not attended? They may be at home, but if they are accessing sensitive data, it's still important that people outside the organisation don't have access to it, whether that's a spouse or room mate.
It's also worth considering Wi-Fi access. Some of your employees may be using public or unsecured networks — but should they be? If they have no choice, they may need to use a company-recommended VPN to protect their identity and data.
A good working from home policy will cover all relevant expectations and best practice. This includes core work hours, regular communication and who is eligible to work from home and those who are expected to stay in the office (where possible).
Any such policy must be reviewed but also effectively communicated to a wider group of employees now working from outside the organization’s offices – McAfee
2. Ensure you have a good video conferencing set up
With staff working remotely, opportunities for catch ups and meetings are going to be impacted. A good messaging system like Slack can go a long way to recreate those desk-side chats, but when it comes to ‘face to face' meetings, it's important to have a plan in place to ensure that these aren't lost entirely.
As Avast recently advised, you should make sure that your video and audio equipment is up to standard, and provide workers with extra equipment should they need it.
A video call can save companies time thanks to the immediate dialogue back and forth, saving long messages over email. But poor sound or blocky video can severely impact on the quality of your team's video conferencing. Make sure that your company has the best software and hardware solutions in place.
Again, it's good to give your employees some guidance to help them adapt to their new working conditions — such as how to video call effectively. Some may have never done it before, or be nervous about calling in from their home. Some tips around where to position yourself, background and even basics such as how to turn the microphone on and off, can go a long way.
Video conferencing will also become more important as more in-person conferences are going virtual – Avast
3. Audit your password policy
In its blog, McAfee underlines the importance of good password management for staff working from home. Employees may let best practice slide when outside the office environment, which could lead to data breaches.
A lot of potential issues can be prevented with a business password manager – a central control point to view and manage account access, with tools that automatically suggest and manage hard-to-crack passwords.
With a company password manager, your employees won't have to think about remembering a password ever again — they'll be automatically entered when needed. This means that the employee is less likely to adopt poor practice, such as writing them down, or sharing them over unsecured networks. If your workers are at home or in a public place, the last thing you want is for them to be writing passwords on sticky notes and leaving them around.
1Password announced last week that it would be offering companies a 6 month trial period, in place of its standard 30 days.
With passwords ubiquitous, and two-factor authentication now commonplace, ensuring the appropriate level of authorization for key assets is in place will be critical – McAfee
4. Make sure the company VPN can support WFH
Many companies use VPNs to protect both their staff and their organization. By using a VPN while at work, employees can access content with an added layer of security, which makes snooping on business activity much more difficult. BitDefender has highlighted the importance of ensuring your employees have access to a VPN at home as well.
While VPN use in the office is becoming commonplace, the number of licenses that a company may have paid for could be under serious strain given the widespread working from home conditions required at the moment. Yet arguably their use now is more important than ever, as more widespread employees means more potential vulnerabilities. Now is the time to make sure you can support workers across all teams and locations, with a business VPN account.
VPNs for businesses are charged on a sliding scale – the bigger the demand from your company, the better the discount the provider will give you. So take stock, work out exactly how many employees need a VPN right now, and make sure you have the best VPN provider for them.
Some companies may face operational risks such as not being able to support a large number of simultaneous VPN connections to their infrastructure and services. This can cause discomfort for employees that need access to internal resources and may even place additional strain on IT teams, if they’re not prepared for this – BitDefender
5. Protect against phishing attacks and scams in general
With workers out of the office, it's important to be more vigilant than ever about phishing attacks and scams, says Avast. This is especially true given the number of coronavirus-based phishing attempts that have been emerging in the past few weeks.
In addition, it's important to remember that workers at home may be using unchecked equipment, which could pose a threat to sensitive data and networks. For example, an innocent looking USB memory stick could harbor a harmful virus, which a worker may unwittingly release.
A good business-focused anti-virus package will mitigate a lot of the potential threats faced by remote workers. A central security hub will allow you to control permissions from one place, as well as spot viruses early on and isolate them. You'll even be able to impose rules about what your employees can and can't access and download, reducing the danger further.
Attackers will leverage spear-phishing emails with Corona Virus themes and watering hole attacks from compromised web sites to target workers and prey on the situation. Reduce the attack surface by tightening web security policies and block access to risky cloud services – Avast