As the COVID-19 pandemic forced most companies and businesses to lock down, the concept of the traditional workplace shifted, with many workers adapting to work-from-home arrangements.
While many of these arrangements began as a temporary measure to balance employee safety and continued business operations, as it turned out, the pandemic presented an opportunity to challenge the conventional way of how people work.
As the world slowly returns to normal, the hybrid work setup has become the new norm—and both businesses and employees are seeing the benefits of the remote work setup.
The work-from-home arrangement is advantageous to employers because it means reduced operating costs, improved employee productivity, and a deeper bench for recruitment. To the employees, working from the comfort of their homes means work schedule flexibility, less time and stress when commuting, more work-life balance, and more savings.
However, there are also issues to address in a remote work set up—the first and foremost is security. If you are a remote worker—especially if you’re using a personal device—how can you ensure that your data is safe and your work is completely secured, considering that you have direct access to your company’s data?
Consider the following pointers for your home workplace safety:
- Make sure you always use a VPN
A virtual private network or VPN is a secure server that protects all information exchanges between you and your company through data encryption. When you use a VPN, your IP address is hidden even if you are using public Wi-Fi. A VPN will also protect your sensitive data from potential hackers.
Company-provided laptops and computers are sometimes installed with VPN as a security feature. But, if you are using your own laptop for work, you can ask your company for access to a VPN or even opt to get one on your own.
Protect your home network by using a strong password—one that is unique, complex, and not easy to crack. Strong passwords are lengthy—a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuations, and symbols.
Default passwords that are provided in your routers are prone to hacking, so make sure that you change this in your router settings. It is also helpful to change your password from time to time.
- Install anti-virus software
Because your laptop or desktop is an essential tool for your work, getting software that protects it from viruses and malware is necessary.
Computer virus attacks can lead to data or file damage, inability to run programs, and even cause your device to crash. You might end up with all your stored data and information erased. Anti-virus software works by detecting threats and working immediately to eliminate them.
- Use updated software
Sometimes, in your haste to beat task deadlines, you might tend to disregard update notifications. Most software has built-in mechanisms to check for possible errors, which is why they are constantly updated. Make sure you install the latest version of your software so that it is safe for use. Do not forget to include your anti-virus software in your update schedules.
- Have separate devices for work and personal use
Using a single device for work and your personal needs may increase the potential for cyberattacks, compromising both your data and your company’s.
For instance, when you use your laptop to access your social media account or even watch a Netflix movie, your device becomes exposed to security threats because of what you upload or download. This is why employers should also consider issuing company-owned laptops to their remote workers.
- Encrypt sensitive data in your email and on your device
Data that is transferred over the internet is prone to hacking. When you need to send sensitive files or sensitive data, encryption will ensure that you are doing this securely.
Encryption involves the process of scrambling plain text into a format that unintended recipients will not be able to decipher. Data can only be opened by your target recipient, making the exchange of information and sensitive data secure.
- Be careful about phishing scams
Cybercriminals are also actively seeking out potential victims due to the high volume of internet users performing remote work.
Be cautious in opening emails and clicking on links that may contain malware—these might be phishing scams meant to steal information such as bank account numbers. If you are unsure about the email source, it is better left unopened, moved to spam, or deleted.
- Do not use a USB to store data
USBs are not ideal when you want to back up your data because these devices can transfer viruses. There is also the danger of losing or misplacing your USB.
Cloud-based services with security certifications and data encryption would be a better option, and some companies even provide this for their remote workforce. If you need to use a USB, ensure you have it checked first by your company’s IT.
- Always back up your data and important files
It would help if you considered unforeseen circumstances like power outages, loss of internet connection, and others. You must always back up your data by enabling back-up functions, or you can purchase a hard drive to store your most important work files.
- Consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA)
Multi-factor authentication is a method of adding a second step in the verification process when you log in to your device or network and access your account. In addition to your password, biometric identification or an SMS message is needed to verify your identity. This ensures that you have another layer of security protection in case your password is leaked.
Using MFA is especially helpful if you share your laptop with others since you can restrict access to work-related data.
Setting Up Your Home Office
In addition to ensuring the security of your work gadgets, you also need to have a risk-free home office setup. Make sure that you and your equipment are safe while you work by taking the following steps:
- Choose a location where you can have the utmost privacy, especially if you regularly engage in video and conference calls. This will prevent people inside your home or visitors from eavesdropping on your conversations that may be confidential to your organization. Your video conferencing software should have security features as well.
- Position your computer against a window, or install a removable screen privacy filter so that other people cannot see what is on your screen.
- Lock your work area when you leave or are done with work. If you do not have a workroom, invest in a safe cabinet that can be used to store your work equipment.
- Keep children and pets away from your work to avoid accidental damage, like toddlers tripping over chords or your dog chewing computer cables.
- Invest in an ergonomic office chair, an office desk with a riser for your device, and good lighting. These office essentials are designed to address health concerns associated with working long hours at the computer. While it may cost you initially, it will be a good investment for your well-being and safety.
- Keep the warranty cards of your work equipment just in case your unit malfunctions. If you need help with computer problems, it is better to consult your office IT experts first rather than bring your unit to untested technicians. Ensure all your sensitive data and files are locked, and never leave your unit unattended with a technician.
- Organize your office in a way that is conducive to productive work. Remove clutters and trip hazards such as exposed wirings and cords. Add a personal touch of things that help you concentrate or enhance your mood—plants, music, inspirational photos, and other things that might help make working a more positive experience.
- Set a work schedule and explain to your family that this is your private time. You may be tempted to juggle between work and household chores when you work from home, which can cause mental and physical strain.
- Finally, protect yourself from burnout and feelings of isolation. One concern about working from home is the lack of physical and social interaction, especially if you are used to corporate settings.
Take care of your mental health by going out to recharge. Always set aside time in your schedule to socialize with your friends and families. Consider these things a way to treat yourself for doing a good job.
Doing Your Part
Like it or not, everyone needs to embrace the fact that working from home will be part of the new normal for many companies and organizations. You can look at it as a silver lining. This new arrangement has also presented solutions to the day-to-day problems associated with reporting to a physical office.
But, while many employees welcome the idea of working from the comforts of their homes, it should be clear that they must do their part in ensuring a secure home office. By putting in place security measures that will address their well-being and safeguard their data, working from home can be a fruitful experience.