Preparing for Working From Home… Permanently

Written by Mark Riddell

COVID-19 has provided us with the largest remote working experiment ever. It’s fair to say that even the biggest skeptics have been proven wrong – you can work from home productively, and you can trust your employees to do work and not just sit in front of the telly.

But this wasn’t just a short-term test; reports suggest up to 86% of business will continue to support working from home long after any COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. So for those users who choose to work from their home office, what should businesses do to ensure those workers have everything they need, and ensure that they remain cyber safe?

I discussed recently with someone about where the line is drawn on what an employer should provide, and what the employee should expect to arrange themselves; a suitable desk/workspace and chair, for example. It’s fair to say that while the employee may take care of the working environment, it is definitely up to the employer to provide the tech.

So what should you provide for staff that are planning on working from home permanently?

  • A laptop or PC – if they are based permanently from home, then you can get more bang for your buck when purchasing a PC over a laptop. But the convenience of portability is usually why anyone working away from the office will be given a laptop. Whichever option you go for, ensure that they have a good size screen – for single screen setup we recommend 24″. Ideally you want this to be on a height adjustable bracket too to avoid neck strain. Laptop users may prefer using a proper mouse instead of a track-pad too.
  • A Phone – depending on the phone system you have in your business, you may have the option of either letting employees use their own smart phone with an app that links into your business system, or you can provide a proper desk handset. The downside to a physical handset is that it normally needs plugged into a network port, which limits it to being used in the same room as their router, which is likely the living room which is less than ideal. Our technicians use a ‘softphone’ which runs on their computer and they use with a Bluetooth headset.
  • Software – make sure that users computers have all the necessary software instead that they need to do their job. Otherwise they may be forced to find their own workarounds and install non-commercially licensed software or download illegal software from dodgy sites.
  • IT Support – make sure any devices used by staff working from home permanently are included on your IT support agreements. Users at home will require the same support as if they were in the office, and finding out the device isn’t covered in the midst of a problem isn’t the time you want to discover this. Also, find out where IT support will draw the line with supporting users at home; will they cover issues caused by their own router or access point?
  • Cyber Security – agree a minimum security requirement for users home networks. Changing router default passwords, setting up a ‘Guest’ or separate WiFi network for non-business use, and ensuring ALL devices on the home network are kept up-to-date is recommended at a minimum. For company supplied devices, ensure that Endpoint Security software and Web Content Filtering services are deployed at the very least.
  • Security Awareness Training (SAT) – users isolated at home are much more vulnerable to social engineering and phishing attacks. It is important to regular phish-test users and ensure any risky users are identified and provided online security training to ensure they remain vigilant and continue to protect your business from these kind of attacks.
  • Working From Home Policies – we aren’t HR experts so we can’t provide specific guidance on this, but we do recommend you discuss with whoever is responsible for HR. Think about extending your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and Information Security Policies to cover users working from home. For any users that are using personal devices, you should create Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies too.

I hope this helps with some things to consider if you or any staff are planning on working from home permanently.

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