Guest Author: Dan Matthews
Remote work and the use of distributed teams is a growing trend among companies of all sizes. Yet not all managers are keen to let their teams work from home or Starbucks because of the security risks inherent in accessing work product from outside your office’s network. It’s not uncommon to see headlines that class remote employees as a company’s biggest IT threat.
At the same time, the benefits of flexible work environments are undeniable. They’re great for supporting employee well-being and mental health while also improving productivity. Whether you’re pitching the idea of remote work or you’re already enjoying those slower mornings at home, there are things you must do to ensure you protect both yourself and your work product.
How to Pitch Remote Work to Your Security Conscious Boss
So you want to work from home, but your company doesn’t yet have a remote worker policy. A big part of your pitch needs to address the concerns that every business owner has about letting their employees roam free: productivity and security.
While the productivity pitch is up to you and your past achievements and your organization’s style of work, the cybersecurity aspect takes some research. Even small businesses have an obligation to protect their data and that of their customers above all else. So you’ll need to speak to these concerns and be able to pitch a real plan — not just a hope for a more flexible schedule.
Some ideas for pitching the concept to your boss include working with your IT department to ensure your work and personal devices are up to the same standard. You should also be armed with research on cybersecurity best practices and be prepared to communicate both potential concerns and your intention to rectify them.
What Remote Workers Need to Know About Cybersecurity
As a remote worker, you need to acknowledge that you bring an added risk to your company by logging-on outside the office. It’s not a personal failing: it’s an inherent risk. Your security is in your own hands outside your premises, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to build your own security fortress. Instead, you need to be vigilant and be willing to take extra precautions.
One of the biggest threats cybersecurity, in general, relates to mobile devices: phones, tablets, and laptops. It’s a threat most of us don’t take seriously enough: a laptop is stolen in an airport every 53 seconds. As a result, you need to not only carry your devices sensibly but also be prepared to protect them if they go missing. At a minimum, you need to store your device securely, use the ‘Find my Device’ option and use both encryption and remote wipe software to ensure that your laptop becomes an overpriced doorstop if it goes missing.
The other bogeyman plaguing remote workers is the open public wi-fi network and an unsecured home network. Free wifi is a boon to remote workers, and 61% of organizations say their employees use these networks on company-owned devices. At the same time, public networks can be used to distribute malware, trick users via spoofing, deploy phishing, and intercept log-in credentials. One wrong click at a Starbucks can land you in hot water. You need to avoid these networks, ideally by using secured personal hotspots, and use tools like VPNs for secure connections.
Security Trumps Freedom Every Time
One of every business’s biggest challenges is finding and keeping great employees. In today’s world, retention often requires giving team members a certain amount of freedom, which can range from flexi-time to remote work. As an employee, you’re not wrong to want to take advantage of that opportunity: it offers a better work-life balance, a happier work life, and saves you time and money.
At the same time, a remote work plan isn’t worth much if it comes with huge cybersecurity risks for both the worker and the business. And working outside of your business’s infrastructure means that security is your personal responsibility. As a result, the success of any remote work plan relies on you and your boss’s ability to work together and mitigate the inherent risks of working remotely.
Remote work comes at a cost, but thankfully, it’s both manageable and worthwhile for you, your employer, and ultimately your customers!
Author Bio: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.