Pivoting to the New Normal: Tips for Balancing Security and Productivity in Today’s Work-From-Home Environment

4/2/2020

At-home WorkforceThe coronavirus pandemic has presented society in general–and business owners in particular–with daunting and difficult challenges, unprecedented in modern times. Though well-intentioned, mandates designed to protect workers and slow the COVID-19 spread have forced small businesses to curtail activities and even shutter operations.

The result for everyone is a devastating ‘new normal,’ which business leaders could not have anticipated or practically prepared for, which is: remotely managing operations in a work-from-home (WFH) environment.

The government’s COVID-19 containment strategy centers on stemming the spread and keeping people safe. So, asking the nation’s workforce to temporarily work from home seems like a reasonable and prudent precaution.

Of course, the problem is that (as of this writing) owners have no idea how long national commerce will remain on lockdown. The scenario changes daily, even hourly. One thing owners are certain of, though, is that to survive the pandemic and emerge on the other side, their at-home workforce must remain productive and engaged–ideally, without exposing employees, systems and networks to cyber hacks and data loss. Here are some ideas for doing just that.

First Things First

Allowing people to work from home is a familiar management strategy, used by companies to reduce costs and improve productivity. Over the years, TeamLogic IT has helped countless businesses design and implement effective work-from-home solutions. What’s different today is the staggering number of people now logging in and working remotely. Now, more than ever, owners and IT teams must find ways to maintain a workable balance between system security and employee output.

Find the Gaps. Fill the Holes.

With uncertainty ever-lingering and no real endgame in sight, business owners should immediately review, assess and firm up current work-from-home policies and procedures. Whatever you’re using now may have been implemented in a rush. So, it’s highly likely there are areas that could use some tightening up. Working with internal leaders, as well as your IT Managed Services Provider (IT MSP), we recommend conducting a careful and objective evaluation of whether:

  • You need to add, modify, update or replace any internal systems or technologies
  • The new work environment adequately supports and facilitates long-term WFH productivity
  • To what extent employees’ at-home work habits could compromise data and network security

Tips to Help You Succeed

Use the insight and intelligence gathered from your WFH assessment to revise weak or outdated policies. Make sure to communicate with teams regularly, either by phone or videoconferencing. The goal is to equip staff for satisfaction and success, while reducing security risk and exposure. Make no mistake. Cybercriminals are keenly aware of your current vulnerabilities, and have, in fact, stepped up phishing, malware and other malicious attacks. So, if you’re not sure about best practices or are struggling to implement them, contact TeamLogic IT today for guidance. Until then:

  1. Reinforce security. Because they’re working from home, employees will naturally want to use their own laptops and mobile devices. This is a risk we think you should avoid. Cybercrooks are busier than ever, and peoples’ personal devices–including cell phones and tablets–are almost certainly less secure than what they’d use at work.

    Best practice: Where possible, issue at-home workers company-owned, company-secured devices, with all applications freshly and fully patched, and invisibly configured to receive automated updates. If you still have road warriors who are permitted to travel for business, similarly equip them to reduce security risk at airports, coffee shops and hotels.
     
  2. Secure workers’ Wi-Fi access. Whether people work from an apartment, condo or detached home, wi-fi signals spill out beyond their walls and into the street. Unsecured wireless access points allow hackers to slip in through the back door and steal data, cripple your network, or hold information for ransom–or if they really want, all three.

    Best practice: Because ‘ drive-by hacking’ is a legitimate and growing threat, we urge you and your IT team to take the following steps today:
    • Ensure that an up-to-date, company-approved firewall is in place and activated
    • Institute stronger encryption and make user and network passwords more complex
    • Take steps to hide users’ wi-fi network name to deter drive-by data thieves
    • Set up an IT help line and/or create ‘how-to’ resources at-home workers can refer to
  3. Protect connections with a VPN. A virtual private network acts like a dedicated, highly encrypted ‘tunnel’ through which data travels from users’ systems directly to your office network. For an added layer of security, many companies support their VPN with two-factor authentication(2FA). If you have an on-premises network server, we can configure Remote Gateway Services (RDGS) or other remote-access software options.

    Best practice: If you don’t currently provide staff with a VPN option, consider doing so as soon possible. Every day without protection puts company and client data at risk for compromise and theft. If you’re new to VPN technology or aren’t sure which choice to go with, call today and let us help.

Need help? Contact us today.

Though promising remedies may soon emerge, no one can predict when the current pandemic will end. Until then, we all remain in this challenging ‘new normal’ together. As one of the nation’s premier IT MSPs, TeamLogic IT has the experience, expertise and solutions you need to weather this storm and others that may come.

We can assist with home-computer, VPN and videoconferencing installations, as well as security-awareness training. Take a moment now to check out our managed IT and supplemental IT services, including business continuity, data backup, and disaster recovery.

Find a TeamLogic IT location nearest you and contact us today.