Telework Security: A Year of COVID Response & What The Future Holds

The future of what a normal work environment will look like has likely be changed forever by what has occurred with the world-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For businesses that were able to do so, a shift to telework as opposed to typical on-site work was seen in early 2020 so that these companies could continue operations as much as was possible in the light of a lockdown. While no one could have predicted that this would still be the case a year later, after the first two-week lockdown expired followed by the next and restrictions were introduced that carried on for months, many businesses considered what the long-term future of their businesses will look like after this past year. Below are some considerations for businesses when it comes to telework including cybersecurity considerations and how to have a successful continuation of remote work in the future, should they be interested in that path forward.

Cybersecurity Considerations

Many employees were happy to have a shift to telework because they were used to their daily commute and having to deal with others in the office, the idea of working from home with your pajamas and your dog for a coworker was very attractive! However, this abrupt shift for those companies which did not utilize a telework model prior to last year, was a bit of a minefield for business owners, managers, and particularly cybersecurity professionals. Typical fully on-site operations pose a number of cybersecurity threats, and a shift to working from home where many people were a bit more lax for a while obviously made for a nerve-wracking cybersecurity environment.

Ricardo Villadiego, the Founder & CEO of Lumu Technologies, conducted a survey in 2020 where over 350 executives were asked about the current state of cybersecurity to gain insight into what challenges or triumphs their businesses were experiencing in the midst of telework after months of the COVID-19 response. Villadigeo and Lumu found that one in three companies reported having lost or reduced visibility of attacks and compromises. This is a major vulnerability, not being able to see the issues going on with your business; when employees are on-site, there is a secure network they are attached to normally and it is obvious when there is an issue. Though no business wants to encounter cyber issues, it is better to be aware when such an event occurs as opposed to being in the dark.

Lumu Technologies’ survey also had a shocking result in that it found that 70% of organizations experienced an increase in attacks or cyber incidents to their systems since a shift to working from home. This is likely tied to the first issue presented from the survey where vulnerability visibility has been discovered to be extremely low. In addition to this, many companies were so frazzled by the COVID-19 shift to working from home that they did not take adequate consideration for employee education on cybersecurity expectations from home. Though this will not necessarily get rid of all threats to your business, an educated workforce, not only in their career-specific area but in regards to best cybersecurity practices as well, is a company’s best asset — and the opposite could be its greatest downfall.

To help both employees and the success of your business in the future, ensure that an IT help desk is available virtually during normal operating hours for employees. Encourage them to utilize this tool as a preventative approach to security questions as opposed to a reactive option, though that will still be an option for them of course. By having educated employees who also have such a tool at their disposal while working remotely will help all parties involved feel better and more secure when it comes to operating in a work from home setting.

Employee Considerations for Future Success of Telework

For the employees who have been working remotely and who may very well continue on this path, keeping to a regular schedule is key for long term success in a Telework environment. Many Americans have felt burn out over the last year from not being able to separate their work and personal lives since they are now existing in the same space, home. If you’re able, try to set up a designated work space either in an office or even at a desk. Get an ergonomically correct chair for yourself or see if your employer would be willing and able to provide you with such a set up. Be sure to stay organized and have a rough plan for each day so that you do not overwhelm yourself with all there is that needs to be done for work; while it is important to do well at your job, prioritizing your mental health and setting aside work once they work day is through will help you in the long term to be happier and more successful in your career.

Telework Considerations for Your Business’ Future

This last year has been trying in more ways than one. Hopefully, your business is one which has emerged from the pandemic with a positive view on telework due to a successful year of operations, despite the issues of the world. If your business was able to operate successfully in this manner, you may consider a future of continuing such a work style approach. Considerations beyond just if the last year was or was not a failure include the cybersecurity incidents that have occurred at your company during this time. If they were minimal or not highly impactful incidents, then simply refreshing employees on your cybersecurity standards, continuing your investments in cybersecurity, and keeping in the know on emerging threats can be an good approach and telework may continue on a strong path. However, if the last year has been a security nightmare with breaches, malware, or other large and costly issues that were not typical of your on-site work, telework may not be a safe option for your businesses and a transition to working back to “normal” operations.

As restrictions are loosening and businesses are making the decision to continue a work from home approach completely, partially via a hybrid method of working, or getting rid of an off-site work approach to work altogether. For employers, if a physical location is still an option for employees of your company, it may be in your best interest to have a conversation with them about their preferences and if they prefer their work-life balance they have achieved while working from home or if they require a partial or full return to the office. Investing in ways like this for your employees costs little-to-no extra money, and it allows you to keep talented and trained people because they are happier. Happy and heard employees will be more loyal to a company and will be more likely to work hard for your business in the future, ultimately making for a more successful path forward for your company. View this last year, if you can, as an opportunity to revamp and revitalize your business for the better based on all you’ve observed while teleworking.

Image by Racool_studio for Freepik.