Guest blog by Alex Tebbs, co-founder of unified communications specialist VIA
Flexible working policies are being implemented and embraced at companies up and down the country, giving employees greater control over where and when they work. This growing trend means different things to different people; for some, it’s the ability to work flexi-time or to work remotely, on set days or every day. For others it relates to part-time hours. One 2017 study highlights the extent of this trend, with 6 in 10 full-time employees having access to flexible working, dispelling the myth that it’s only for working mums.
Another study found that a flexible working policy would make a job more attractive to three-quarters of UK employees, while nearly a third would prefer this over a pay rise. The advantages of flexible working are clear – it allows people to fulfil a better work-life balance, cuts down on commuting time, and helps those who have childcare or other commitments.
Despite the notion that flexible working makes employees less productive – a prime concern for those yet to adopt this type of arrangement – there is research out there that indicates otherwise. This may be because individuals are less affected by workplace stress, or the many distractions that go on in an office, giving them the headspace that they need to blast through their to-do list.
Regardless of whether you work in an office, from a local coffee shop, or at home, security has to remain paramount. Data breaches mean serious business; they can result in hefty fines as well as reputational damage and it’s up to each and every single employee to mitigate the chances of this happening.
In light of Work Wise Week, which culminates in National Work From Home Day today, I thought it would be a good idea to remind businesses how to maintain best practice when it comes to online and offline security.
The online risks
Cyber crime is rife right now, with hackers constantly finding new ways to operate. In fact, cyber security product developer SonicWall says British companies are hit with an average of 38 new ransomware attacks a day, with many (over half) targeted at smaller, newer businesses.
Hackers often work by capitalising on the errors in judgement of individuals, and as well as ransomware attacks, employees are particularly at risk of falling victim to phishing. With phishing attacks, cyber criminals disguise themself as a trustworthy source (i.e. a bank) in the hope that the person on the other end of their email/call will give away their passwords and other personal details. Speaking of passwords, having a weak one, or one password that’s used across multiple sites, is a data breach waiting to happen!
Those who tend to work on the go need to be more aware of the dangers of connecting to a public WiFi network. Hackers have become adept at creating ‘evil twin’ WiFi hotspots that appear to be legitimate, so that they can access personal/sensitive information. One way you can minimise the risk of this happening is by creating a virtual private network, used to anonymise and encrypt internet traffic. In addition, when browsing the web, you should always look for the ‘HTTPS’ protocol (the secure version of HTTP).
When creating and sharing files, you may also want to consider using cloud-based applications. Despite the myths that the cloud isn’t secure enough, it’s safer than it’s ever been and new advancements are being made all the time. Many applications offer end-to-end encryption and advanced file-sharing functionality, so you can be very specific in regards to who has access to your documents and what they can do with it, and cloud-service providers are well-equipped to deal with security issues with their own software.
The offline risks
Anyone who is working remotely should also be aware of the offline risks. Though many companies have made steps to become ‘digital only’, paperwork is still the norm for the majority of businesses.
The problem with paperwork containing sensitive information is that it can fall into the wrong hands. Failing to dispose of any confidential waste correctly is against the law, which means that you should never throw any work-related documents into your household bin. Investing in a shredder for your home office is a quick and easy solution to this.
The issue with travelling with physical documents is that they can get lost, posing the same risk. Always try to avoid taking paperwork with you when you’re out and about, instead opting for safer, online applications.
Larger companies may even choose to invest in scanning and digitisation services, where a third-party business scans and stores hard copies – the digital version can be still be accessed as and when required.
Training for a safer working environment
With GDPR just around the corner, it’s never been more important for businesses to ensure that they employ best practice when it comes to online and offline security. HRs should work with their clients to create a checklist for staff to adhere to, covering the most common things that can lead to a data breach. This is something that should be shared with everyone, regardless of whether they work in the office or not, or whether they work part-time or full-time. Training sessions are also advised to ensure a safer working environment for all. In firms where flexible working is the norm, online sessions may be preferable and encourage a greater attendance among employees.