Who would have thought that when we went into the initial lockdown in March 2020 that a lot of us would still be working from home a full year later? With the government's plan to lift all restrictions on June 21st a lot of us will be preparing to return to work. However, the return to work is predicted to look a lot different with flexible or home working options to be provided within some organisations.
Covid-19 changed the proception that all employees need to work in office to be productive. Early into lockdown, social media giants ‘Twitter’ announced a new ‘work from home forever’ option to their 4,000 global employees. A study by Standford showed that over a 9 month period during lockdown productivity increased by 13%. This was partly due to workers taking shorter breaks and less sick days in-turn giving them more time at their computers.
Working remotely comes with its risks. With the reopening of public spaces such as Cafés and libraries there is an increased risk of employees using unsecure connections such as open WIFI with their work devices to carry out private business. Open WIFI networks can be used to harvest user data including passwords or even private customer data, man-in-the-middle attacks and even distribute malware that will infect and may even spread to other devices. A VPN can be used to help reduce the risk of unsecure networks as the VPN will encrypt the data being sent over and make it unreadable to the public network. Two factor authentication (2FA) is a great feature to use as an extra line of defence for protection over password leaks.
At the beginning of lockdown there was a mass shortage on computer components in the UK due to companies buying equipment for staff to use at home to keep operations running, for some this would have resulted in employees using personal devices to conduct work.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Throughout the pandemic we've seen a lot of hardware shortages. A combination of increased demand with people working from home, the Bitcoin boom using all the graphics cards for mining coins and the factories being shut in China. This has led to many using devices that they may have already had. The family computer, or a personal device.
While this has meant they can continue to work, as we look to ensure flexible working is a success long term, we need to consider if it is still the best approach.
You can still continue to allow employees to use their own devices but you need to be sure that they have the correct cyber security protections in place.
You can do this with a BYOD policy that states that personal devices may only be used for business use if they adhere to set configurations with your security software installed.
The best way is company owned devices. You retain full control and they're monitored by IT departments or third parties to look for any suspicious activity or fix any vulnerabilities with updates, you will also know they're protected if they're lost.
While out of the office, you loose the protection from cyber crime of "does this email look a bit weird?" or "did you just get an email from the boss?". When at home users are less likely to spot cyber attacks.
You can combat this with structured, regular training, with examples of the latest threats so that staff are aware and can report attempted attacks.
You should also test your staff with dummy phishing attacks so that you can see if users are reporting attempts, or if they're clicking and happily giving away their passwords!
Health and Safety
While working from home it's still important to assess the health and safety of your employees working conditions.
- Are they working in a suitable space?
- Is it safe?
- Do they have the right equipment?
- Is their chair suitable?
- Is the screen at an appropriate height?
Just because they're out of the office you still have a responsibility to their safety.
Businesses should incorporate companywide policies that ensure the right safety measures are carried out to allow for remote working.
Communication and Mental Health
You should also consider the mental health aspects. Working from home may mean less contact with other people, consider setting up a conference all over lunch and be sure to check on each other.
At ATG we have a wellbeing huddle every Monday morning, where we catch up on what's happening in peoples lives and what they did on the weekend. Granted during lockdown they were boring some weeks. Nobody wants to go back to Paul going through his Maglite collection again!
We also have daily huddles where everyone talks through what they did yesterday, what's happening today and any barriers. We have done this in person for several years but keeping this through remote working has made a huge difference to team communication and well being.
As well as huddles be sure to check on induvial regularly. Social events are a useful exercise to increase the team's moral, with lockdown restrictions easing more social events can happen in-person such as meals or sports but lockdown has showed us that social events can also be held online remotely with activities such as quizzes or even online escape rooms.
Is Flexible the Future?
There are many positive and negatives to working from home, and in the office. Some find it more productive at home, others find the distractions too much. No commute is great for some, others prefer it to switch off.
100% home working probably wont work for most businesses or employees, but if the last year has taught us anything its that businesses can give employees more flexibility. With the right, people, process and technology to help we certainly think the future looks flexible.