In business today, thanks to significant advances in networking and mobile technologies more and more employees are working from home, or close to home or in co-working spaces. The trend is that more employees are looking for flexible employers and flexible working conditions. The expectation of a traditional 40-hour workweek and attendance in an office is becoming less typical.

Remote working is a permanent or temporary agreement between employees and managers to work from a non-office location. The benefits to an organisation are that they have an unprecedented ability to keep the best employees, regardless of where they live or their life situations. The swell of virtual companies where employees meet virtually and rarely face to face is commonplace.

One hurdle for companies can be computer infrastructure, tech security and networking. Beyond providing remote staff with company laptops and mobile phones, how can companies ensure that a decentralized workforce maintains strong tech security? Companies need to be aware that laptops and mobile devices can be susceptible to data leaks because they can be lost or stolen as well as easily accessed by non-employees. If data is leaked, financial, legal and reputational problems can quickly follow.

Here are some things that companies can do to help tighten security:

Policy and procedure:

If you have staff that are opting to work remotely, ensure that you have “remote staff policies” in place and that your staff is aware of your company’s expectations about tech security. For example, a policy should outline your expectations about the remote working arrangements, i.e. the requirement for a reliable internet connection, choosing a quiet and distraction-free working space, is available on a mobile during work hours and computer camera access for virtual meetings.

Regarding procedures: team members and their managers should determine short and long term work goals. If required they should also prepare a schedule to meet either virtually or face to face to discuss progress and results, this will help to engage employees and maintain work expectations and project output. Policy Template here

Outline the companies Data Protection Policy:

Employers should have a Company Data Protection Policy, which helps to protect the employers from very real security threats including breaches of confidentiality and reputational damages. Employers need to educate their staff on standard data protection practices: for example, document shredding, data encryption, password protection, password updates, the frequency of backups, access authorization etc. Protection Policy Template here

Data Storage:

Whether data is stored on paper or on a cloud application, data needs to be kept secure where unauthorized people cannot see it. If printed data needs to be discarded, it should be shredded or disposed of securely. When data is stored electronically it must be protected from unauthorised access, accidental deletion and malicious hacking attempts.

Cloud applications:

By using web-based applications to handle business tasks, all businesses can encourage employees to work from any location, while handing off most data-security responsibility to cloud service. These providers who are often better equipped and staffed to lock it down. Cloud applications let users access office applications and email, calendars and file-sharing tools using computers, the web and mobile devices, such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. You can even use cloud applications to secure employees' use of the web. Such companies as ScanSafe and Zsaler.

Company network connections:

You could also set up a system to provide remote workers with secure access to your corporate network. A traditional system includes VPN’s (Virtual Private networks software) which can encrypt remote works internet traffic, along with business tools to ensure that security patched are installed and configures in the correct manner to identify any signs of infection on the computer.

What your IT team can consider:

IT can provide security software and practice good computer hygiene by using the latest versions of all applications and installing new security patches immediately. Your IT team can install whole-disk encryption software, which can keep unauthorized people from accessing any of its data. We also advise IT install remote-wipe apps on mobile devices so you can erase data if the device is gone forever.