Across the globe, millions of employees have brought their work home as travel restrictions are implemented and more individuals opt to self-quarantine and shelter in place. This latest coronavirus outbreak has prompted sweeping changes in terms of how and where individuals work. In fact, the pandemic has prompted companies to establish a new COVID-19 work from home movement that has spread worldwide at a pace equal to the spread of the coronavirus.
This has many business leaders and employees seeking tips on working from home. Some experts predict that the COVID-19 work from home trend could profoundly change the way companies operate long-term. Of course, this comes with many challenges, ranging from security to productivity and beyond.
Security Threats Arising from the COVID-19 Work From Home Trend
Hackers and other unsavory characters tend to take advantage of opportunities whenever and wherever they arise – The COVID-19 work from home trend will be no exception. As the coronavirus spreads, so do reports of security breaches and other cybercrimes.
Many companies moved in haste to establish the technology that would allow employees to work remotely. But in doing so, they’ve no doubt produced glaring security loopholes that cybercriminals and hackers will promptly exploit. It’s a prospect that has many cyber security experts very uncomfortable, especially considering the shift from well-architected corporate networks, with their robust firewalls, to unguarded and completely unsecured home WiFi networks.
There is also a potential for phishing attacks and other similar incidents as cybercriminals take advantage of the turn toward online communication.
To avoid falling victim to a different epidemic — one involving cybercrime — company leaders should re-examine their security measures and, if necessary, call in experts who can offer assistance in creating secure networks, VPNs, etc.
It’s also wise to develop protocol for securing the devices that employees are using for their work, particularly if employees are being permitted to use their personal laptops and home computers (otherwise known as “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD)
Additionally, it’s prudent for company leaders to take the time to remind employees of good cyber security practices and company policies to ensure that everyone remains productive and safe in the coming days, weeks and months.
Simple awareness is a big piece of the puzzle, so discuss the following points with your team:
- How to create a secure WiFi network at your home;
- Reiterate the company’s policies concerning the use of personal laptops and other devices;
- Provide staff with a list of software, apps, VPNs and security precautions that must be in place on the device they’re using for work; and
- Make sure staff are aware of the emerging trend involving coronavirus-related cyberattacks.
Ways to Improve Remote Working Productivity
The COVID-19 work from home movement has led many to work remotely for the first time ever, so it’s resulting in some “growing pains” as team members spread out and attempt to work remotely.
How can you maintain productivity? Consider these tips for working from home:
- Communication is key — When you’re at the office, communication is as simple as walking over to a co-worker’s desk or sending a DM on the company’s network. As you develop new processes and protocols for communication, it may feel like you’re over-communicating at first, but this is definitely preferable to the alternative. Try these communication tricks:
- Hold at least one daily check-in call via Zoom or a similar conference calling platform that allows for voice calling, facetime and screen sharing.
- Use screen share tools when multiple people are expected to view the same content simultaneously for discussion.
- Pick a single DM platform for communicating in real-time, whether it’s Slack, Google Chat, Taskworld or another platform. Make sure everyone chats on that one platform so you’re not left to check your email, text messages and five different platforms throughout the day.
- Consider a Task Management Software Platform — Remote work relies upon good communication and even better organization, so now may be a good time to shift to using a task management software platform like Trello, Jira, WorkZone, ProofHub, TeamWork, Taskworld, Paymo or one of the many other similar options. These platforms allow you to centralize communications surrounding various projects and tasks, while giving you the tools you need to monitor progress.
- Keep Your Regular Schedule — While it may be tempting to vary your hours, this really isn’t best, especially if you’re working with others. Keep a regular schedule that mimics your regular work hours when you’re in the office and make sure that everyone else does the same. This includes taking a lunch break too; otherwise, you can find yourself facing burnout much earlier in the day.
- Work in a Quiet, Distraction-Free Location — Home can be filled with distractions, especially when you add pets and kids to the equation. And with so many school districts cancelling classes or going remote, there are lots of kids at home. Do your best to find a location where you’ll be removed from distractions. Also, be sure to tell others in the household when and where you’ll be working so they know not to disturb you.
- Allow Extra Time for Communications & Other Tasks — You’ll need to communicate more intensively when working remotely. But beyond this, remember that this is a time when people are establishing new habits, learning new processes (and new software), and overcoming unforeseen challenges. Even if you’re adept at working remotely, the others whom you deal with in the course of your day — both within your company and beyond — may be new to working from home. This can result in delays and longer timeframes. Keep this in mind as you plan ahead and set expectations.
Additionally, company leaders can look to technology to bridge the gap between their employees and the clients or customers whom they interact with on a daily basis. For instance, your company’s sales team may start using Zoom to deliver presentations or demos to prospective clients whom they’d normally meet with in person. Similarly, you may opt to establish a company VPN to allow employees to work from home in a secure manner.
More Companies Prepare to Work Remotely
As the COVID-19 work at home trend continues and curfews or travel restrictions begin to arise, even more businesses will take the leap of shifting to remote work. Unfortunately, for some industries, it’s much easier said than done. Government agencies, the insurance and banking sectors, healthcare and even the K-12 education sector are struggling as they attempt to implement changes that will allow everyone to self-isolate.
These are sectors where older, legacy software systems are commonplace. But to make matters worse, data privacy and security are very real concerns. These worries are compounded when you consider the antiquated, patched-together software that many companies within these industries utilize.
Companies are faced with even greater challenges in highly-regulated industries, such as the airline industry or the stock trading industry, which requires the use of proprietary software platforms. Many companies are finding that mission-critical software just isn’t conducive to remote work due to extensive security and device-related requirements. These companies will need a custom-crafted solution, with the help of custom software developers and data privacy consultants who can lead the way by creating a regulation-compliant, remote work-friendly solution.
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